Groundbreaking for Tulsa’s Sobering Center marks major shift in city’s policing, health-care practices

The city of Tulsa’s decision to open its own holding facility for municipal inmates has drawn a lot of public attention and media scrutiny.

But Thursday the spotlight will be on another public safety — and public health — issue that city officials believe will be every bit as important as any lockup facility: Tulsa’s Sobering Center.

Mayor G.T. Bynum and other city officials will join the staff of 12&12 at a Thursday afternoon ground-breaking the Sobering Center, which will be built on 12&12’s property at 6333 E. Skelly Drive.

“This is a quintessential Tulsa way of addressing a need by partnering across organizations to deliver a better service for our neighbors who need some help,” Bynum said Wednesday.

The Sobering Center is expected to be completed in a few months. Once it is, individuals arrested for public intoxication will be brought there. Currently, they are booked into the Tulsa Jail — a costly and time-consuming process for everyone involved.

The Sobering Center is not for individuals facing DUI complaints or any other charges.

“The idea behind it for us is kind of multifaceted,” said Tulsa Police Deputy Chief Jonathan Brooks. “There is a direct benefit for the Police Department. It is much more efficient for officers time-wise. … The amount of time it takes to book somebody (into the jail), sometimes it can take two hours.”

Dropping individuals off at the Sobering Center, on the other hand, will take 10 or 15 minutes, Brooks said, putting officers back on the streets more quickly to deal with serious crimes.

The city has allocated $250,000 this year to operate the Sobering Center. But Bynum and Brooks believe City Hall will benefit financially.

Typically, more than half of the municipal inmates in the Tulsa Jail are there for public intoxication, Bynum said. To keep them locked up, the city is paying $69 a day.

Given those facts, the mayor added, “you have to wonder if there is a better way to address that issue. Fortunately, we have nonprofit partners locally who have expertise on that issue.”

For those arrested on a public intoxication complaint, the Sobering Center will provide a safe place to sleep it off without being charged with a crime, officials say.

“There is no booking process, there are no charges filed. The officer just takes them there and the person stays there for the mandatory time, which is 10 hours,” Brooks said.

Bryan Day, CEO of 12&12, said the organization’s mission is to provide life-saving recovery tools for adults suffering with addiction or co-existing mental-health and substance-abuse disorders.

12&12 employs about 170 people, including some contract workers, Day said. The staff includes psychiatrists, registered nurses, licensed professional counselors, and drug and alcohol counselors.

The recovery center offers a range of care, from five-day detox programs to 30- to 45-day intensive residential stays.

The Sobering Center will have 42 beds, with separate accommodations for men and women. There will be 25 beds for males and 17 for women. The facility will be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Individuals dropped off there will be fed and given a cot to sleep on.

And, if they are so inclined, they can get more intensive care.

“I view it as kind of backing up the front door a little bit,” Day said of the Sobering Center. “You have the opportunity, instead of being in jail, you have an opportunity to be part of this new program, and at your discretion, you could access these other services.”

Construction of the Sobering Center is being paid for with a $750,000 donation from the Hardesty Foundation.

The city is scheduled to open its lockup facility March 1. It will be inside the Police Courts Building, 600 Civic Center Plaza.

But on Thursday, the focus will be on the Sobering Center.

“The chance to partner with 12&12 on this is just a dream come true,” Bynum said. “I am really thankful that they stepped up.”

Original Tulsa World Article can be found by clicking here.

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