Collingwood, an inner suburb of Melbourne, will become the location of the first permanent sobering up centre in Victoria. This move comes in advance of the decriminalization of public intoxication in the state.
The announcement of the facility with twenty beds comes as the Andrews government moves away from viewing public intoxication as a criminal offence and towards addressing it as a health issue instead.
Gabrielle Williams, the state’s minister of mental health, announced on Friday that under the altered approach, outreach services will provide assistance to individuals who are visibly intoxicated in public and, if required, will take them to a secure location where they can rest and sober up.
According to what she mentioned, a safe place for some people would be at the centre, while for others, it would be with a member of their family, a close friend, or a caregiver.
It is anticipated that the new restriction against public intoxication will go into force on the day of the Melbourne Cup, which is on November 7. Additionally, construction on the Collingwood centre is scheduled to begin very shortly.
According to Williams, the location was selected because of its close proximity to the Central Business District (CBD), as well as to fulfil the significant demand for public drunkenness services in the area.
It is also in close proximity to St. Vincent’s Hospital and public transportation.
Williams said in a statement that these health-led reforms strike the appropriate balance between assisting people who are inebriated and ensuring the safety of the community.
“For too long, public drunkenness laws have caused great pain to some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said. “These reforms strike the right balance between supporting people who are intoxicated and ensuring the safety of the community.”
As part of the new health-based strategy, the minister stated that the centre, along with general services, would be operated by the non-profit organization cohealth.
According to Williams, the revamped strategy would have specially trained personnel working alongside local health and social support agencies to guarantee that persons utilizing the sobering centre had access to support for other concerns such as drugs, family violence, and homelessness. This would be accomplished through a collaboration between the two sets of services.
For the purpose of receiving referrals to public drunkenness services, a special phone line would be established. People could also walk themselves into the centre, or outreach personnel could take them there. Both options were available.
Christopher Turner, the deputy chief executive officer of Co-health, stated that the new model would also entail the deployment of mobile vans across the metropolitan Melbourne area.
Turner stated that the sobering up service would be modelled after the successful trial that was conducted in the City of Yarra.
“From young people who are disoriented and have lost their friends late at night to people who have had one too many drinks after work to people who are homeless and alcohol-affected, our service will be for everyone,” he added. “Our service will be for everyone.”
Ambulance Williams stated that Victoria and Victoria police would continue to respond to situations involving public intoxication in which there were urgent health issues or where there was a risk to the safety of the community.
The Police Association of Victoria has in the past voiced its opposition to the shift toward a more health-centred approach. On Friday, the company’s chief executive, Wayne Gatt, stated that the Collingwood facility was suitable for residents of inner Melbourne, but residents in regional Victoria would be out of luck as a result.
In addition to this, he questioned whether or not the rehabilitation centre would be finished by November.
At the beginning of the coronial investigation into the death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day in 2019, the Victorian government made a commitment to the decriminalization of public intoxication.
The day was taken into custody in December 2017 for the offence of being intoxicated in a public place. She passed away in January 2018 when she slammed her head on a wall while being held in a concrete cell at the Castlemaine police station.
The findings of the autopsy show that her passing may have been avoided.
Williams stated that in response to a proposal made by the coronial inquest, extra outreach and sobering services would be implemented for Aboriginal people.
Help is available for relatives and friends of addicts through Family Drug Support Australia, which can be reached at 1300 368 186. The National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline in Australia can be reached at 1800 250 015. Action on Addiction can be reached at this number in the United Kingdom: 0300 330 0659. Call or text the SAMHSA National Helpline at 988 if you’re in the United States.