AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Thursday, the Austin City Council will make a decision on recommendations for a possible place for people to sober up. A group made up of city and county staff suggests converting the current Travis County Medical Examiner facility into a sobriety center.
Last year, city and county officials created the Austin-Travis County Intergovernmental Working Group to develop a plan for a potential sobriety center. The group was tasked to figure out where to place a potential sobriety center, how it will be governed and how to fund a sobriety center. The group recommends the city and county should create a joint Local Government Corporation (LGC).
The group determined the current medical examiner’s facility, located at 1213 Sabine Street, could be used as a sobriety center and that a separate area in the building could house a substation for the Austin Police Department.
Since it’s still in the early phases, the group hasn’t ironed out a way to fund the LGC, how many board members there will be, insurance requirements and other logistics. The group recommends city and county officials negotiate those items.
The sobriety centers, also known as “drunk tanks,” are places to secure publicly intoxicated people deemed a danger to themselves or others; it could also offer support and encourage treatment for alcoholism. It’s also seen as an alternative to jail for minor public intoxication offenses.
The Austin-Travis County EMS Association said earlier this month that a sobriety center would free up police officers’ time that’s now spent on those types of criminal bookings. In 2013 3,754 people were arrested for public intoxication (PI). In that same year, the University of Texas Police arrested 169 people for PI.
“We would rather not have our officers spending their time on a public intoxication when no crime has been committed,” said Anthony Marquardt, with the Austin-Travis County EMS Association last year in an interview with KXAN News.