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The King County Sobering Support Center serves as a safe place for people to sleep off the acute effects of intoxication and connect to treatment services, housing assistance and other supports. The Sobering Center has been part of the community at its current location for more than 20 years. The Sobering Center is open 24/7 and serves up to 60 adults at a time. Also operating onsite is the King County Emergency Services Patrol, providing transport for individuals to and from the Sobering Center from locations in and around the downtown Seattle area, and the REACH homeless outreach team that works to engage persons experiencing homelessness and connect them to treatment and housing.

Why are the services moving?

The building where the Sobering Center is currently located has been sold and the center must move to a new location. A condition of the building sale required the building owner, Community Psychiatric Clinic (CPC) to purchase and provide a new location for the Sobering Center. CPC has purchased a new building in Georgetown to house the Sobering Center, the Emergency Services Patrol and the REACH homeless outreach team. The site will also house a clinic that will provide both health and behavioral health services.

Who is involved?

King County Behavioral Health and Recovery Division (BHRD) contracts for sobering services to strengthen the availability, quality and coordination of crisis services for homeless persons with chronic substance use disorders. Pioneer Human Services (PHS) provides these sobering and outpatient treatment service. Community Psychiatric Clinic will provide the behavioral health services onsite and the health clinic will be operated by Harborview Medical Center.

How can I learn more?

King County has participated in one meeting so far with the Georgetown Community and plans to join additional meetings in the Georgetown area to discuss any questions or concerns with residents and business owners. King County will also host meetings in addition to joining meetings of existing community groups in Georgetown.

Meeting dates and times will be noted on this page and sent to Georgetown Community Council leaders to assist in posting the information.

Email for updates

About the location

The building where the Sobering Center is currently located in South Lake Union has been sold and a new location is needed to continue these important services.

The Sobering Center is bringing many of the necessary services with it when it comes: medical and behavioral health care clinic, sobering services, street outreach, case management, referral to housing and employment services and more.
Georgetown has issues with homelessness and intoxication. The community voiced frustration with a lack of law enforcement to intervene. The ESP van and street outreach teams can help with both these issues. The availability of physical and behavioral health care on site could be also be a community asset. The current facility has operated near similar establishments without issues.

The ESP van provides transport to and from the center for clients. Bus tickets for Metro will be available. There are other possibilities that can and will be explored with King County Metro to try to mitigate transportation impact and hopefully improve the transportation outlook for the neighborhood. DCHS Director Leo Flor committed to engaging with Metro to discuss the transportation needs in the community.

Community Psychiatric Clinic purchased the new site in a private sale. The Housing & Community Developer consultant on this project from Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington indicates that Community Psychiatric Clinic selected potential relocation sites for the Sobering Center based on proximity to the Emergency Services Patrol catchment area, square footage of the building and suitability for Sobering Center services, the purchase price, rehabilitation costs, egress and ingress for Emergency Services Patrol vans to the building, access to main roads for the vans to get to the rest of the catchment area, and access to transit lines.
The Housing & Community Developer consultant on this project from Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington indicates that Community Psychiatric Clinic, their development consultant, and their real estate broker searched for available commercial buildings that would be appropriate for the Sobering Center close to the catchment area for the Emergency Services Patrol. Community Psychiatric Clinic examined the feasibility of several sites near the catchment area that ultimately were not selected due to either budget or development timeline.
According to the Housing & Community Developer consultant on this project from Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington indicates that as the building owner, Community Psychiatric Clinic will be responsible for managing the permitting process with the City of Seattle. CPC has begun the permitting process with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). They will go through the permitting process for the building rehabilitation plans. The planned use is consistent with the zoning, and the final determination will be with SDCI.
Per the Housing & Community Developer consultant on this project from Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington, Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections will apply the building code appropriate for the occupancy type and review and approve all plans for structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing upgrades to ensure fire and life safety for the building, its occupants, and its neighbors.

Community engagement

King County will work with Seattle Police and the King County Sheriff on the move. The ESP and Seattle Police and Fire already work together closely.
King County and Community Psychiatric Clinic welcome community input, particularly on how to ensure the building and sobering center can be good neighbors in the community, transportation and other questions, issues or concerns. King County will work to mitigate those concerns, including facilitating and participating in community meetings as well as meetings with other city and county departments, to review and discuss ideas or concerns. Community input has already included asking to identify potential community meeting space within the building, asking that vehicle traffic focus on the non-storefront side of the building, and requests to update exterior aspects of the building to improve the streetscape, like adding window awnings or providing display spaces for local art.
King County and CPC have just begun to work with the community. A second community meeting will be scheduled for early 2019 and the service providers will attend to answer questions 1:1 with the community about their service plans. King County will create a web page that will include an option to sign up for alerts. Other community meetings and/or attendance at monthly Georgetown Council meetings are also anticipated.

King County is happy to arrange for community members to tour the current Sobering Center in South Lake Union to get a feel for how the facility is set up and how it operates. In addition, King County will set up an Open House type of event at the current Sobering Center and invite Georgetown community members to tour. Once that is scheduled, the day and time will be communicated to the Georgetown community.

As to touring the new building, CPC has a tight timeline for building renovations. King County and CPC work with that construction schedule to try to carve out time for a representative group to tour inside. Working with the construction leads will be key for safety. We will also hope to be able to share the renovation plans for the site at an upcoming community meeting.

King County and CPC are committed to being good neighbors by participating with the community in addressing concerns and questions. King County would like more dialogue with the community on existing areas of concern in Georgetown and how we may be able to help. Through participation in community meetings and forums that the Georgetown Community Council has designated, through one-on-one conversations and in meetings the County convenes, we will work to hear and strategize solutions to issues and concerns with the community. A continuing Advisory Council could be established if there is interest.

Community effect

Sobering Center clients are picked up by the ESP vans throughout downtown and south Seattle. After the clients’ stay at the Sobering Center, ESP will provide transportation back to the area at which they were picked up or to treatment options. Some people walk into the Sobering Center from local neighborhoods, and would then walk back out after their stay. To be clear, King County cannot force a client to take ESP or public transportation after their stay. Bus tickets are available for people who need public transportation outside the ESP van routes. The experience at the current sobering center is that the vast majority of clients prefer to return to their community rather than staying near the sobering center. King County is committed to working on a transportation plan for clients that does not leave them stranded at the Sobering Center or in the Georgetown neighborhood.
In the 20 years of operation at the current site, the South Lake Union area has not experienced any significant increased neighborhood crime from Sobering Center clients. Staff are actively engaged with the clients and there are interior and exterior cameras to monitor any activity near the building. The Seattle Police and Fire Departments have a strong, long-time relationships with the Sobering Center and there is frequent communication between the agencies around client needs and transportation. The ESP van patrolling the streets will bring an added aspect of safety and service to the Georgetown area by being more available to pick up and transport anyone inebriated from the local streets.
The Sobering Center’s presence has not negatively impacted the business community in South Lake Union and the providers involved in the project expect the same for Georgetown. Community Psychiatric Clinic, as the building’s owner, and King County Behavioral Health and Recovery Division, as the building lessee, will meet with local businesses and community members prior to opening to discuss the project and both will continue to work with neighbors to address any issues that arise once the facility opens. The presence of the ESP van on Georgetown streets would also be a positive presence, as will the availability of REACH outreach workers to come out to talk with homeless persons who might need assistance; we expect both services to be responsive to the needs of local businesses.
There are some people who are transported to the Sobering Center once and are never seen again. There are some clients who, as a result of their addiction to substances, may cycle through the Sobering Center multiple times. With each visit, staff attempt to engage the client into services, but services are voluntary and no one is compelled to enter into treatment.
The REACH outreach teams will attempt to engage and move to shelter and housing the people they see and meet with who are homeless in Georgetown. Homeless people in Georgetown may benefit from medical and behavioral health services at the new site. If they are struggling with intoxication, sobering services will also be available. These will all be new resources based in the Georgetown community.
The majority of Sobering Center clients are picked up by the Emergency Service Patrol (ESP) vans. After the clients’ stay at the Sobering Center, they are offered a ride by the van back to where they were picked up or to treatment services. Bus tickets are available for people who need public transportation outside the ESP van routes. King County is committed to working on a transportation plan for clients that does not leave them stranded. Most clients at the current sobering center prefer to return to their community rather than staying near the sobering center.

Services and clients

King County will contract with Pioneer Human Services to provide Sobering Center services. King County employees staff the Emergency Services Patrol (ESP) vans that provide transportation and assistance to people on the streets who are inebriated or incapacitated due to behavioral health issues. A medical clinic will be established onsite by Harborview Medical Center and behavioral health services will be provided by CPC.
Adults with behavioral health issues and people who are homeless may access sobering center services. Any community member may access behavioral health or medical clinic services.
For all guests, it is a safe place to sleep off intoxication. Staying on the streets, particularly in severe weather, can be very dangerous as it leaves them vulnerable to crime, hyperthermia or severe illness. At the Sobering Center, they can access a wide range of services to address immediate health and safety issues, and get referrals to community treatment services, counseling, employment or housing. Sobering Center guests will also have the chance to shower and access laundry services. Sobering Center staff will assist with assessing nutritional needs. Behavioral health treatment and medical clinic will be new services added to the new location of the Sobering Center.
Yes, clients can walk in and ask for help.

A detox center provides effective detoxification programs and methods to assist those who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction in finding the strength to make their way through the withdrawal symptoms.

A sobering center provides a safe environment for publicly intoxicated individuals to sober up and, when appropriate, initiate recovery. It aims to enhance public health and public safety by providing an alternative to the streets, emergency rooms and jail.

This is a sobering center. Detox tends to involve a longer stay and uses medical staff and medications.

Sobering services are available to adults age 18 and over.
The ESP van picks up people who are incapacitated due to severe substance use and once they have sobered up enough to be engaged, staff attempts to bring them into services and discuss an individualized care plan developed as a product of case management. Case managers have been trained to look for signs and symptoms of major mental illness and to try to direct those individuals into mental health treatment.
There is no set release time. People may be released at any time – to go to an inpatient treatment facility, to go to work or to go home, if they have one. They may leave to go to a shelter, job training, library or a day shelter. The Sobering Center is completely voluntary, so any client can leave when s/he wants to leave. Transportation in some form will be offered, however, the client is not required to take it or to tell staff where they are going.
Capacity at any one time staying in the Sobering Center is 60 people.
The service never closes for new admissions; when the 61st person arrives at the door, someone in the original 60 is discharged. This might be a person who has been on site the longest, has housing or can access other shelter options. ESP will transport these people to the next service location.
The Sobering Center served 1,726 people in 2017 (2018 data is not yet available).

King County would like more dialogue with the community on this. All Sobering Center staff are trained in de-escalation techniques and work hard to minimize disruptions on site. The goal is to keep people safely using services and not turn them out into the community. King County is also committed to being good part of the community and to contributing to efforts on overall community safety. This is an area where King County will seek additional community input and can change or adjust plans or approaches in partnership with the community.

Ownership and operations

Community Psychiatric Clinic (CPC) is the owner of the building where the current Sobering Center is located and the purchaser of the building in Georgetown that is proposed as the new location. CPC is a long-time provider of behavioral health services and supportive housing in the region.
Pioneer Human Services has been the operator of the Sobering Center since 1999. The agency was again selected in 2008 through a competitive Request for Proposal process, which is the process whereby the County asks interested community agencies to formally submit proposals to provide services that are evaluated and scored, after which a contract is awarded.
The Sobering Center and the ESP vans are jointly funded by King County and the City of Seattle (approx. $4 million/year). Harborview medical clinic services will be funded by Medicaid, Medicare and other Federal funding. CPC behavioral health services will be funded by Medicaid and Medicare.
King County Behavioral Health and Recovery Division (BHRD), part of the Department of Community and Human Services, holds the majority of the contracts for the facility services. ESP drivers are BHRD staff. Public Health-Seattle & King County will oversee the onsite medical clinic.
King County is not a subject matter expert in answering this question, however, per the Housing & Community Developer consultant on this project from Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington it is unknown if the seller is using a 1031 Exchange. Community Psychiatric Clinic is not subject to a capital gains tax as a 501(c)3, and would have no advantage in doing a 1031 Exchange. The gains from the sale of the current Sobering Center building are being reinvested in the relocated Sobering Center and an affordable housing building.
King County is not a subject matter expert in answering this question, however, the Housing & Community Developer consultant on this project from Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington indicates that there is no advantage to the current owner selling to a nonprofit. Any other tax benefits the seller may be receiving would be the same no matter who was purchasing the building.
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