Sobering Center’s Early Progress Ahead of Mardi Gra

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NEW ORLEANS — Mayor LaToya Cantrell celebrated the increased participation in and success of the Sobering Center, which allows residents and visitors who are seriously intoxicated a place to rest before returning to their homes or hotels.

“The Sobering Center has had an incredibly positive impact on our community since it first began receiving visitors on Oct. 12, 2019, and we saw a significant increase in visitors from December to January. Our City agencies and partners have created a safe space for the seriously intoxicated. This prevents any undue strain on our jail and our emergency rooms, and also lessens the burden on our neighbors and business owners, and their properties,” said Mayor Cantrell. “As Carnival approaches, we want to remind our residents and visitors they have an option for rest and care when they feel they’ve had too much to drink.”

In January, 54 visitors were accepted at the Sobering Center, which is coordinated by Odyssey House Louisiana in partnership with the New Orleans Health Department (NOHD), New Orleans Emergency Medical Services (NOEMS) and New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). (That’s compared to 35 in the month of December, which represents a 54 percent increase.)

More than one-third were transported by NOPD, while less than one-third were transported by NOEMS, and one-quarter were walk-ins.

Three were transported by the Louisiana State Police. Nearly one-fifth of visitors sought treatment through OHL’s Detox Unit.

Just over 85 percent of the visitors were residents, with just less than 15 percent visitors to the city.

“The Sobering Center is an important part of the New Orleans Health Department’s holistic, harm-reduction approach to health and wellness. It helps to keep our hospital services efficient while providing highly skilled, compassionate care, and links people with chronic substance abuse problems to long-term detox services,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director, New Orleans Health Department. “We are excited about the early successes that have helped keep our residents and visitors safe, and encourage everyone to consider this service during Carnival and beyond.”

“The Sobering Center is an exemplary fusion of public health and public safety. Our paramedics at New Orleans EMS have embraced this opportunity to capitalize on sound clinical judgment and transport individuals to a compassionate alternate destination,” said Dr. Emily Nichols, Director, New Orleans Emergency Medical Services.

“The Center continues to prove its value in our city. This innovative program provides officers an alternative to taking individuals to jail or the hospital,” said Shaun Ferguson, Superintendent, New Orleans Police Department.

“Odyssey House is excited to offer these much-needed services to residents and visitors. The function of the Sobering Center is to remove vulnerable, highly intoxicated individuals from harm’s way or an escalating situation and bring them to a safe, secure environment until they are able to make more conscious choices,” said Edward C. Carlson, CEO, Odyssey House Louisiana. “Individuals at the Center will be monitored for specific cues, recover from immediate acute alcohol impairment and then, after they are more aware of their surroundings, may either simply leave or may have “warm hand-off” into medically supported detox or additional services if they so choose. We see this as both a community resource and a first point of contact for individuals who may need access to treatment services.”

Learn more about the Sobering Center here.


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