Sobering Center offers safe place for intoxicated

BETHEL — A safe place in Bethel for intoxicated people to sleep off a night of drinking has grown into a round-the-clock operation that wants to better serve those who need help.

The Sobering Center was initially open four nights a week but has expanded its hours over its four winters in operation. It provided 1,860 bed nights in 2012 and served about 970 unique individuals, KYUK reported this week.

Program manager Rusty Tews said some people make repeat visits. He said those individuals have severe addiction problems but are not ready to change and do not want additional help. He says staffers do what they can to help turn users’ lives around.

Tews said about 40 percent of those who use the center are Bethel residents, while the rest are from surrounding villages. He said about 1 in 5 are willing to talk about alcohol issues, and 5 to 7 percent of their contacts result in a referral to medical treatment.

He said the center and its partners are looking at how they can do more with their resources and better serve those who use the center.

He said staff has learned to meet people where they are.

“They’re generally just people. When they’re sober, they’re just sober. When they’re drunk, they’re just people with a problem,” he said. “We’ve learned to deal with the problems in a sympathetic and professional way, and I think it shows.”

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