Apr 24, 2024 - News

New Portland sobering center expected next year

Illustration of a sad man sitting inside of an empty beer bottle.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Portland area could have a sobering center by 2025 to replace the one that closed in 2020.

Why it matters: Portland's last sobering center — where people could sleep off drug or alcohol binges — closed because staff said they couldn't handle increasing cases of aggressive behavior.

  • But, the closure left first responders with few places to take the heavily intoxicated.

Driving the news: Multnomah County commissioners last week revealed a long-awaited plan for the new center.

  • The plans for the center — which is expected to cost about $14 million a year to operate — call for a 25,000-square-foot building with a place where patients can be quickly dropped off, according to Eric Zimmerman, chief of staff for Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards.
  • The county intends to repurpose an old building to save money, he told Axios, and the earliest the center would open is within 10 months of authorization, which is expected in the coming weeks.

How it works: Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson told Axios that triage by first responders will be important, so that people get the right treatment, perhaps at an emergency room.

  • Vega Pederson said the center will start with 15 beds, eventually growing to 30, and it will be divided for different groups of people.
  • It also would deflect people away from the criminal justice system, a key part of House Bill 4002 which recriminalized small amounts of drug use but still aims to keep users out of jail.

Catch up quick: The Oregon Legislature this year allocated $25 million for a "behavioral health drop off center" but didn't specify what that would like, so "it's incumbent upon us to do that work," said Vega Pederson, who put Brim-Edwards in charge of the project.

  • Members of Vega Pederson's team are in the early stages of looking at locations, but neither she nor Zimmerman would divulge where they are.
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