An Alternative To The ER, Sobering Center Still In Works

Jul 10, 2015

Plans to establish a center where people can go to sober up, instead of the emergency room, have languished for lack of state funding. But a renewed effort to launch the program is underway.

Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Current state law requires emergency rescue crews to take intoxicated people to the emergency room. But that strains resources. And health care professionals say these patients could be safely cared for outside an ER, and connected with treatment, for much less money. Health and human services secretary Elizabeth Roberts says she hopes to establish the state’s first “sobering center” by next year. But the details are in flux.

“We are still in active dialogue between the behavioral health, developmental disabilities, and hospitals, Medicaid and providers in the community to get that off the ground," said Roberts.

Cranston Senator Josh Miller led the effort to create a sobering center, but the plan was never funded. Lawmakers included it in the budget this year as part of a package of Medicaid reforms but as a net money-saver.

According to Rhode Island House spokesman Larry Berman (via email), "The program will be operated by The Providence Center and paid for through...managed care plans."