Travis County reviews efforts to reduce jail bookings and emergency rooms visits

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Travis County Commissioners received presentations from local criminal justice entities and advocacy groups on July 31. From possession of marijuana to public intoxication, the county is seeking to reduce jail bookings, emergency room visits and detention for individuals who do not need costly medical and/or criminal interventions.

Commissioners reviewed the criminal justice asset map—which details the county-wide, combined efforts to divert people from jail—and received an update on the Austin & Travis County Sobering Center—a forthcoming center to assist intoxicated individuals with immediate sobering needs.

Austin & Travis County Sobering Center

The Sobering Center of Austin—at 1213 Sabine St.—is set to open Aug. 22, providing 40 cots for visitors to sober up, said Executive Director Rhonda Patrick in her presentation to the court on July 31. The center will be more than just a holding area for the intoxicated, she said. It will allow police and EMS workers to use their time more efficiently by keeping jails free of people who do not need to be there.

“A sobering center is not a treatment center,” Patrick said. “We are a diversion from high-cost emergency room care and high-cost incarceration for persons who are intoxicated. We divert people to the right places to get the help that they need.”

Travis County Criminal Justice Asset Map

The result of a collaboration between the city of Austin, Travis County and local nonprofit organizations, the criminal justice asset map documents the county-wide, combined efforts to divert people from the criminal justice center.

“We’re not clogging up our jails and burdening our taxpayers by putting people in jail who don’t need to be,” said Commissioner Brigid Shea.

The map is a response to a request from the commissioners for a comprehensive list of efforts.

“This is a really good first step,” said Commissioner Jefferey Travillion. “This is really a project management and planning tool. This is the type of thing we need to inform public policy.”

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Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Jackson Buchanan is the editor for the Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition of Community Impact Newspaper. She has a bachelor's and master's degree from The University of Texas.
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