AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Sobering Center in downtown Austin has been effective in diverting people from jails and hospitals, officials from the program said during Tuesday’s Travis County Commissioners Court meeting.

The Austin Travis County Sobering Center has operated for five years. Since it opened its doors, center staff have assisted over 8,000 clients. The Sobering Center was opened as an alternative to jails or hospitals for intoxicated people and has been successful in diverting around 2,700 people from hospitals and over 5,224 people from going to jail, per the center’s data.

The Sobering Center reported that with the first 4,000 people diverted from jail, it saved taxpayers $50,000 in booking fees. Further, the program relieves pressures from jails while helping clients with behaviors that stem from a substance abuse disorder. 

“[The Center] has been a lot more successful than we thought it would be,”Laura Elmore, Executive Director of the Sobering Center, said Tuesday at Travis County Commissioners Court meeting. “We have proven benefit to the county.” 

The Sobering Center was established in 2018 with the intent of providing a safe space for people to recover from intoxication instead of jail or the emergency room. They provide its services to college students, festival and bar goers and the chronically homeless. 

Going to the Sobering Center also helps intoxicated people avoid fines and fees associated with going to the hospital or getting admitted into jail. 

“There are so many benefits to the patients that we can’t even imagine,” Elmore said.