Sobriety center proposed for Medical Examiner’s Office

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new sobriety center could be located in the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, if commissioners and the Austin City Council approve a proposal finalized last week.

Sobriety centers are places to secure publicly intoxicated people deemed a danger to themselves or others. Additionally, the center could also offer support and encourage treatment for alcoholism. It is also seen as an alternative to jail for minor public intoxication offenses.

The Austin-Travis County Intergovernmental Working Group was considering two locations: the Medical Examiner’s office at 12th and Sabine Streets downtown and a county office building at 10th and Lavaca Streets. Travis County officials say they chose the M.E.’s office because of its location, size, accessibility and features of the building including drains in the floor and ventilation.

The plan, which still has to be approved, calls for creating a Local Government Corporation with the county to operate the center.

The plan also asks for a nine-member Board of Directors to be appointed for the center. Four of the members would be allotted by the city, four by the country and one jointly.

It also proposes the county renovate and maintain the building. The renovation is expected to cost $887,500. The city of Austin would pay for initial furniture, fixtures and equipment as well as Information Technology services and security.

In the first decade after opening, the plan calls for the city to pay 78 percent of the operating cost. Travis County would pay the remaining 22 percent.

The Medical Examiner’s office will not vacate the building until early next year and would be ready for renovation by June 2017. It would open for operation later that summer.

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