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Agencies to help pay detox center tab

Intoxicated county residents will have a place to dry out 24 hours a day, thanks to the efforts of local hospitals, community organizations and elected officials.

Caught in the state's budget squeeze, Jackson County's sobering unit was set to close for eight hours a day starting in July, said Hank Collins, director of the county's health and human services. But hospital administrators, directors of ACCESS Inc. and city officials have said they'll pay to keep it open.

You have to think to yourself, 'What's going to happen to these people if they have nowhere to go?' said Medford Mayor Lindsay Berryman.

It's kind of humanity on our doorstep.

— Police last year brought about 2,150 people to the sobering unit, located on Third and Front streets in Medford. Sixty-five people walked in on their own, according to county statistics.

The facility gives those under the influence of alcohol a space on the floor, a blanket, some water and soup until they're sober and allowed to leave between eight and 10 hours later.

The sobering unit's budget was set to be slashed by about 34 percent in July. Oregon health department officials have said the county can no longer spend &

36;82,500 in state alcohol and drug treatment money on warehousing people until they sober up.

With that kind of reduction, the sobering unit would have to close between noon and 8 p.m., Collins said. Yet Medford police ' responsible for the vast majority of lodgings ' bring about 40 percent of all detainees to the sobering unit during those times. The county jail will not house residents simply so they can dry out.

Businesses are going to find people sleeping in their doorways. ... I think the problem is going to increase rather than decrease, said Patty Claeys, director of ACCESS Inc., a non-profit social service agency.

Seeking a temporary funding source for the sobering unit, Berryman said she will ask the Medford City Council to contribute &

36;25,000. Mayors from other cities said they also would approach their councils for funding, Berryman added.

ACCESS will chip in &

36;10,000 of grant money, and Asante Health System administrators have said they will add another &

36;10,000, Berryman said.

Providence Medford Medical Center has committed to helping out, said Shirley Martin, assistant administrator for patient care services. She wouldn't discuss how much money the hospital would give.

Berryman said she hoped Jackson County would come through with &

36;25,000. However, the county's general fund already allocates approximately &

36;115,000 to the sobering unit, said Dave Kanner, deputy county administrator. In addition to county and state funds, Oregon's taxes on beer and wine make up &

36;60,000 of the sobering unit's &

36;257,500 budget.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail .