Thursday, Travis County Commissioners discussed a new pilot program—aimed towards expanding the Sobering Center’s operations.
The Sobering Center opened in 2018 as a partnership between the county and the City of Austin.
The Center serves people committing public intoxication—as a safe place to recover and get needed resources.
“We’ve had several years of successful diversion efforts for those who are publicly intoxicated,” says Laura Sovine, Executive Director of the Sobering Center.
Sovine says she’s eager to learn more about the prospect of a mental health diversion pilot program.
She says the goal is to keep people out of the criminal justice program—and give law enforcement a place for people to go when behavioral issues seem to stem from mental health disorders.
“They’re wanting to divert to a place where we can do some problem solving and assessment rather than taking people to jail,” says Sovine.
Marsha Stone, founder of BRC Healthcare, says the Sobering Center is a great place for the pilot program—as substance abuse and mental health disorders often go hand in hand.
“Whether or not someone is suffering from primary mental health diagnosis or substance use disorder diagnosis; the two are so intertwined sometimes you can’t separate one from another,” says Stone.
Both commissioners and the Sobering Center say more time is needed to figure out how to access the target population—among which are those experiencing homelessness.
Commissioners are expected to vote on the pilot program next Tuesday.