This story is a staff report from The Paper.

The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners has approved $4.35 million in Behavioral Health Initiative funding to support the City of Albuquerque’s Medical Sobering Center to be located at the new Gibson Health Hub.

The Medical Sobering Center is a diversion program designed to provide access to non-emergency medical assistance related to substance use. The Gibson Health Hub houses facilities including a nightly shelter for those experiencing homelessness.

“This is another piece in the behavioral health continuum that has become a focal point in our community,” says County Manager Julie Morgas Baca. “We identified a need and are gladly joining forces with the City of Albuquerque to offer the best in care and assistance for our residents.

Both medical and criminal justice systems have expressed concerns regarding bottlenecking of the jail and emergency rooms due to substance use. The Medical Sobering Center will alleviate the pressure on those systems and give people direct access to the services they need.

“Addiction has impacted our New Mexican families and communities for generations,” said County Commission Chair Adrian Barboa“Countless medical professionals have spoken to me about the need for medical sobering and I am proud that Bernalillo County will be part of this much-needed resource.”

Currently, the county has the CARE Campus which includes a public inebriate intervention program offering sobering services for individuals who are low acuity, a substance use detox program, and a crisis stabilization unit.  The Medical Sobering Center services will complement the CARE Campus by serving higher medical acuity clients who are non-ambulatory, at high risk for asphyxiation, or other medical complications. By pairing the Medical Sobering Center and the CARE Campus services, there will be a more robust continuum of care that serves all levels of acuity in the community.

The city and county will leverage the funds to:

  • Divert individuals with moderate acuity intoxication from overcrowded emergency departments and jail to a safe place to gain sobriety
  • Establish front door access to services including treatment, recovery supports, housing, and other unmet social needs to ultimately end the cycle of addiction
  • Reduce morbidity and mortality related to substance misuse by improving health outcomes and, in turn, reducing the need for emergency response

The commission approved the appropriation on a 4 to 1 vote.  Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty was dissenting.