AUSTIN, Texas -- Austin's Sobering Center will open its doors Thursday.
Public intoxication is one of the most common crimes in Austin. EMS gets several of these calls a day, and the people usually end up in the emergency room. Within the city's limits, around 50 people are put in jail for public intoxication every week. Between Jan. 1 and May 31, 2018, Austin sold $338 million in alcohol.
"After mapping it out we can have about 50 males in here," said Executive Director Rhonda Patrick, while showing the men's sobering area. "I've spent a great deal of time looking at our own situation when it comes to intoxication."
Patrick spent time on the streets doing research on the problems police and EMS face daily.
"It really just depends on what's happening down in our entertainment districts," she said.
The main concern is unpaid medical bills when a drunk person ends up in the hospital to sober up. The cost totals out to more than $2,000. Police may also have to dedicate hours of their day booking a person into jail.
The Sobering Center offers a solution with two separate rooms for male and female patients. They have 32 beds in total, but can fit dozens more, if needed. Patients that are heavily intoxicated and are a danger to themselves or others are put in a private room, where they can get specialized care for their needs. Each room has a camera for the protection of the patients.
Not only are the staff offering a place to sleep it off, but they monitor vitals and provides social service interventions.
"Is this patient at risk for substance abuse disorders? Is this a one-off thing? We can provide the harm reduction," said Brian Lynch, who oversees the clinical services.
Patrick said that for people with deeper issues, this is just the beginning.
"We have the resources to get them to the places that they need," she said.
The Sobering Center will be open up Thursday through Sunday. In October, the center will open its doors every day of the week. Only law enforcement and EMS are able to check patients in.