A new Sobering Center in Santa Barbara will give people a safe place to spend the night, referrals to services they need, and a ride home.
The Santa Barbara County Behavioral Wellness Department is renovating a building to serve as a temporary site until it gets trailers in place next year to serve as a long-term facility, department director Alice Gleghorn said.
The Sobering Center will divert people from jail and hospital emergency rooms, and will be used to connect them to alcohol and drug programs, case management, housing and other services, according to Behavioral Wellness.
“It’s not that we haven’t been treating people who are acutely intoxicated, but it’s good to have a space dedicated to people where we think that’s the primary issue,” Gleghorn said.
She expects evenings, and weekends, to be the busiest times, but won’t know what the demand is until services start in January.
“We plan on being open every day and we’ll see what the need is,” she said. “If it’s a lot of folks who are chronic inebriates and homeless, or from local late-night drinking establishments, or parties in heavy student areas, we don’t know — we’ll figure that out and try to be a resource for the community.”
The Sobering Center will be located on the department’s main campus, on Calle Real/Camino Del Remedio, which has become a “crisis hub” of mental health services in recent years with the Crisis Stabilization Unit and South County Crisis Services on site.
The Sobering Center will have about 10 beds, with separate spaces for men and women, and most people are expected to stay overnight, Gleghorn said. She said it will be larger than the one that is used now at the Faulding Hotel, at 15 E. Haley St. in Santa Barbara.
“We will be driving people back to their homes, no one leaves the Sobering Center on foot, and hopefully connecting them to services they need the next day,” she said.
The trailers, as a permanent space, will be nicer than the temporary building areas, since they’re being designed for this purpose, officials say.
Law enforcement, including co-response teams with officers and Behavioral Wellness staff, can bring people to the Behavioral Wellness campus to get assessed for whether the Sobering Center or another facility is a good fit, Gleghorn said.
Any intoxicated person a police officer considers “unruly, uncooperative or generally unable to follow directions” will not be a candidate for the Sobering Center, Santa Barbara Police Department spokesman Anthony Wagner said. Sobering Center staff can also deny a person entry based on their behavior, he added.
“The expectation of our officers is that persons who are cooperative and taken into custody for public intoxication only will be taken to the Sobering Center rather than jail,” Wagner said.
Behavioral Wellness services include alcohol and drug programs, opioid treatment and medication-assisted treatment, and mental health services for adults and children.