New Approach To Public Intox Could Save Money, Provide Help

Thursday, April 27th 2017, 10:44 pm
By: News On 6

Public intoxication might soon be treated differently in Tulsa. During his budget announcement, Mayor G.T. Bynum said he allocated money to fund the operation of a public inebriation center.

He said it would be more cost-effective than jail, free up valuable police and court time, and requires an innovative approach to getting a better overall outcome for Tulsa.

Bynum’s ambitious budget plan is aimed at helping Tulsans.

4/26/2017 Related Story: Tulsa Mayor Proposes $824 Million Budget

"This time we're not making cuts, we're actually doing something different," said Tulsa City Councilor Karen Gilbert.

If council approved, Tulsa would partner with 12 and 12 - an addiction treatment and recovery group – that would house an inebriation center paid for by private donors, and the City would pay about $250,000 a year to operate it.

Years ago, John Arnett was arrested for public intoxication, but with this program, he would've had a choice - go to jail, get charged, or, get taken there to sleep it off.

"I think I would go take the 12 hours off to go to sleep," Arnett said.

The process is simple - if intoxicated in public - not a DUI or drug related – they’re taken to the inebriation center, signed in by police and they can stay for 12 hours.

"They're given the food to eat and some cab fare, and off they go," Gilbert said.

While there, counseling services would be offered, but not mandatory.

Bynum said public intoxication arrests are the number one offense in Tulsa - tying up 14 officers a day.

"All of this equals a great amount of cost with poor outcomes for the people being arrested, and for our community," he said.

But, with this program, officers and the courts would be freed-up, and low-level offenders - some struggling with addition - would get the break and help they need.

Arnett said, "I wish it would have been like that whenever I used to drink."

The hope is that the program prevents one-time offenders - who maybe partied too hard - from starting a dangerous habit, while also identifying those who are struggling and get them help.