Austin Sobriety Center draws closer to completion, looking for a leader

Austin Travis County Sobriety Center is searching for an executive director before Spring 2018 opening. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).
Austin Travis County Sobriety Center is searching for an executive director before Spring 2018 opening. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After years of planning, the Austin-Travis County Sobriety Center is close to being ready for launch. The board opening the center has just announced they’re searching for an executive director to lead it.

Carol Drennan, the interim executive director for the center, explained they will be looking for candidates to lead their program which is modeled after sobriety centers in Houston and San Antonio. The center is expected to launch in spring of 2018 and the executive director will be expected to start by January.

“We are a center that will pick up anyone who has been picked up for public intoxication and has not committed any other crime,” Drennan said. “It will allow them to come here safely, sober up and to not have to come to the jail or not have to come to the emergency room.”

The center will also link the people staying there up with support and sobriety resources. They hope to provide services at the center down the line.

The board is also working with Travis County on finalizing the design of the building, which is currently still occupied by the Travis County Medical Examiner’s office. The ME’s office is expected to move out in September, then the bottom two floors will be designated for the sobriety center.

The center will have beds for 39 men and 8 women.

Austin’s Mayor Pro Tem, Kathie Tovo, who is on the board for this center, explained that this project has been a long-term community goal. Some of her colleagues on the board have been talking about building something like it for over a decade.  She believes this project will be an enormous community benefit.

“Currently individuals who are publicly intoxicated are taken to jail or are taken to the emergency room some are able to be sent home with someone else,” Tovo explained. “But many individuals who are publicly intoxicated are spending hours at one of our jails or hours at one of our emergency rooms.”

Tovo said she wants to see those people being connected with more long-term resources.

“This is going to be a great savings of police time for example, so there’s an immediate benefit back to the city of Austin to have individuals who are publicly intoxicated taken to a sobering center rather then to jail,” Tovo continued.

Austin-area resident Suzanne, who declined to give her last name, is the daughter of an alcoholic, and she is excited to know that the center is close to completion.

“That’s wonderful, I think that’s very needed to have a safe place to go and just to be introduced to some resources and to maybe some people who have gone through what you’re going through,” she said.

Suzanne’s father passed away two weeks ago and right up until his death he dealt with the repercussions of a life of alcoholism. While many of her father’s incidents occurred in the home, she explained that he certainly had incidents of public intoxication as well. She is well aware that the type of public intoxication which people may be sent to the center for could be tied to alcohol abuse.

Suzanne was able to find support in Al Annon but she regrets that her father was never comfortable reaching out for support for his alcoholism.

“I wish he had had some resources and had been able to get the help he needed and I think he could have been happier and had less pain,” she said through tears. She hopes the center will be able to point other people struggling with sobriety to resources and communities that may help them.

“There are some people that are doctors that are alcoholics there are some people who are homeless who are alcoholics, and they all need the same help, they all need love, they’re all there for a reason,” she said.

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