Sobering center for people deemed “publicly intoxicated” open near New Orleans’ French Quarter

New Orleans has a new 25-bed facility near the French Quarter where overly intoxicated people can sober up.

According to the center’s website, “Intoxicated individuals would stay at the facility while they sober up, under the care of trained staff. The Sobering Center will welcome and care for anyone so deemed publicly intoxicated, including “chronic inebriates,” i.e. people with substance use disorders who live on the streets, as well as visitors to New Orleans who have over-imbibed.”

The Sobering Center addresses public safety for both inebriated clients and the general population. Rather than remaining on the streets, vulnerable individuals are removed from harm’s way or an escalating situation and brought to a safe, secure environment until they are able to make more conscious choices.

The Sobering Center is a more appropriate destination than jails or emergency rooms, as clients will be monitored for specific cues, recover from immediate acute alcohol impairment, and have a “warm handoff” into medically supported detox or additional services if appropriate.

On Thursday, the New Orleans City Council voted to allow local first responder agencies, like law enforcement or emergency medical services, to drop patients off at the facility.

New Orleans EMS director Dr. Emily Nichols said it takes about 13 minutes to get someone under care there, while hospitals can take up to an hour. She says it frees hospital beds for people with other needs.

To be eligible for Sobering Center admission, a person must be:

  • Conscious and ambulatory (client can walk, or be assisted in walking, through the door)
  • Non-combative
  • 18 years or older
  • Impaired on alcohol; clients who are impaired from other substances may be transferred to hospital emergency department or a detox program

A city news release from the City of New Orleans reports the center is operated by Odyssey House Louisiana. Odyssey House Louisiana also provides support for people who need additional short-term or long-term assistance.

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