NEW ORLEANS (AP) " New Orleans has a 25-bed facility where people found seriously drunk in public can sober up under the care of trained staffers.
"This will be a place where people can be safe and have access to a compassionate place to sober up for a few hours - whether you are a one-time visitor to this city or a chronic alcohol user," Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the city's health director, said at a ribbon-cutting Thursday.
The City Council voted the same day to authorize police to take people to the Sobering Center near the French Quarter.
Emergency Medical Services has been doing so since October, and the center has been open for nearly two months.
It takes about 13 minutes to get someone under care there, while hospitals can take up to an hour, EMS director Dr. Emily Nichols said. "This space is expected to the decrease the number of ambulance trips to our local emergency departments, thus freeing hospital beds for persons with conditions requiring more acute medical intervention," she said.
Odyssey House Louisiana runs the center, which also provides support for people who need additional long or short-term help. The city provided nearly $1 million and hopes to get grants, matching funds and additional partnerships in the future, a news release said.
"This is about people, this is about meeting them where they are, this is about not only getting them to be sober, but meeting their needs through restorative approaches and help them get on better footing," said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
About 20% of the clients so far have been connected to additional services, Odyssey House Louisiana CEO Ed Carlson said.
The center takes intoxicated people from situations where they might be in danger and into a secure environment "until they are able to make more conscious choices," according to the center's website.
About 20 other U.S. cities either have similar centers or are planning to open one, according to the city's news release.