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First Ever Sobering Center in Skid Row to Divert Intoxicated Homeless From Jail and the Hospital

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

This week, Los Angeles County officials opened the Dr. David L. Murphy Sobering Center in downtown LA. The facility—the first of its kind in LA County—will be open 24 hours a day and free up first responder resources by taking in chronically intoxicated members of Skid Row’s homeless population who would otherwise be either arrested by law enforcement for low-level crimes or transported to an emergency room by the fire department’s EMTs. (When those first responders take people to the hospital, they often have to wait for hours until the patient is taken by the ER staff.)

The center will be able to house and assist up to 50 patients at a time, and anticipates approximately 8,000 visits by 2,000 people per year. Patients will also receive mental health and substance abuse services at the facility.

The sobering center was created from a motion by LA County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis. The $2 million start-up cost and the $3.4 million in annual operational costs will be covered by money the county has set aside for diversion, although the center is expected to save the county more money than it costs to run. If the center successfully diverts 60% of the 8,000 expected yearly visits away from hospitals, the county will save $9.6 million dollars annually.

“This Sobering Center will help those struggling with alcoholism without criminalizing them or having them languish in hospital waiting rooms,” LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said during the grand opening ceremony. “The staff here will help them sober up and link them to interventions that break the destructive cycle of streets, jails, and hospitals.”

The facility started accepting patients on Monday.

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