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Service provider for downtown Portland facility will only accept people brought in by Portland police starting Friday.

Sheriff Craig RobertsThe pending partial closure of the downtown Portland sobering center operated by Central City Concern is an unexpected crisis for the entire region, according to Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts.

The center at 526 S.E. Grand Ave. will stop accepting referrals from all law enforcement agencies in the region except the Portland Police Bureau on Friday, Dec. 20. The nonprofit social service organization will continue to be paid to accept and supervise people brought in by the police until they sober up.

The center could completely close by the end of June or sooner, however. Central City Concern has notified it will not renew its contract to operate the center, which expires on June 30, 2020.

According to Amanda Risser, the organization's senior medical director, the changes are being made because of the potentially dangerous behavior of an increasing number of people being brought to the center. Risser said that growing number of clients are on drugs that make them a danger to themselves and the staff trying to help them.

"No one has been hurt yet, but need to make the changes we've made," said Risser.

But Roberts believes that even the partial closure creates problems for his agency because the Clackamas County Jail is not equipped to handle people on alcohol or drugs. Instead, sheriff's deputies have been transporting them to the sobering center. During the last fiscal year, that amounted to 116 people, the third largest number.

"This is totally unacceptable," said Roberts, who says he only learned about the closure at a Wednesday morning meeting with facility staff and representatives of area law enforcement agencies called by the City of Portland.

"I feel like we've been kicked to the curb," said Roberts. "Our jail isn't set up for detox."

According to Central City Concern, the center treated 3,187 during the last fiscal year. Most, 2,725, were from Portland. The second largest number was 222 from Washington County. Milwaukie was fourth with 57 people.

Risser said she understands the changes are creating challenges in the region. Central City Concern is committed to working with all of the stakeholders to find alternatives, she said, explaining that hospitals and other medical provider in the region need to be part of the solution.

The sobering center is different than the Hooper Detox Stabilization Center operated by Central City Concern at 1535 N. Williams Ave. in Portland. It is not changing.

Oregon Public Broadcasting is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. You can read their story on the issue Here.


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