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Grants Pass gets grant for a sobering center

Backers of the proposed Grants Pass Sobering Center got some good news Friday in the form of a $500,000 grant approved by the Oregon Legislature.

The money will be used to retrofit a 4,700-square-foot warehouse on Southwest Foundry Street that organizers are negotiating to buy from the Grants Pass Gospel Rescue Mission.

"We had hoped for more, but beggars can't be choosers," quipped Bill Landis, director of the city's Department of Public Safety and a key figure in the effort to establish the center.

"Every little half-million helps," added Jim Brumbach, a member of the Sobering Center board of directors.

The appropriation was announced Friday by Rep. Duane Stark, R-Grants Pass, who said fellow lawmakers in Salem were impressed by the Sobering Center board's previous fundraising efforts, which have exceeded $140,000 and showed that civic leaders and the business community in Grants Pass have some skin in the game.

"It was my hope to match that effort with dollars from the state," Stark said in a written statement. "Several legislators in the Southern Oregon Caucus stepped up to the plate to make it happen."

The money will come in handy now that the Legislature has also extended legal protection to sobering centers similar to protections already enjoyed by detox facilities that provide on-site treatment.

As envisioned by proponents, sobering centers are intended to be places where intoxicated people can be lodged until they are sober.

They are not more comprehensive detox centers, although guests will be advised of treatment options.

The next challenge will be generating the revenue to operate the facility, estimated at about $250,000 a year.

Landis said the Legislature has bolstered appropriations for addiction and mental health programming, and he hopes some of that money will go to Grants Pass to match local donations.

Said Landis, "We'll definitely be applying."