Houston City Council today approved Mayor Annise Parker’s innovative plan to create a public/private partnership to operate the Houston Sobering Center. Council also approved including the Houston Police Department’s Mental Health Unit in the same building, bringing together staff dispersed throughout the city into one location.
“This will help reduce the city’s financial burden for handling public intoxication cases, ease crowding in our city jail and make our streets safer,” said Mayor Parker. “There will be services for those who need them, whether in the short term or the long term, and hopefully we’ll see real change for them. We hope it eventually also creates savings in the form of reduced operating costs at the city jail.”
The Sobering Center is an alternative to jail for people detained for public intoxication, allowing the opportunity to regain sobriety in a safe, medically-monitored environment.
The city’s annual cost to lease, maintain and staff the new center is estimated to be $1.5 million, compared to the $4-6 million currently being spent to process public intoxication cases at the city jail.
Those who choose the Sobering Center will be observed and given necessary outpatient services to manage various intoxication levels. Once sober, detainees will meet with recovery specialists and Star of Hope referral staff who will offer opportunities for long-term treatment with appropriate social service agencies. In addition, the Houston Police Department (HPD), Houston Department of Health and Human Services and Houston Fire Department (HFD) will provide city services at the site.
“Star of Hope is pleased to be a partner in this new venture,” said Star of Hope President and CEO Hank Rush. “In other cities, 60-80% of the individuals who utilize a Sobering Center are homeless. Here in Houston, we’ll be on site to counsel and refer them to appropriate providers who can help them with their recovery and transitional needs as they return to independent living.”
The new center will operate out of an existing two-story building located behind the Star of Hope Men’s Development Center on Ruiz Street in north downtown.
A 501(c) 3 foundation will also be created to aid in future fundraising for operations and possible future expansion.