Oklahoma City-The Arnall Family Foundation has awarded OKC Metro Alliance, Inc. $22,320 to conduct a needs assessment of the Public Inebriate Alternative (PIA). The PIA was established to minimize the numbers of individuals experiencing incarceration following an arrest for public intoxication.

The 90-day grant will be used to identify needs of PIA detainees and see if services can be provided to reduce their involvement in the criminal justice system. Case management and wraparound supports are proposed as interventions in this effort. Keith Pirtle, MSW, has been hired to lead the Arnall-funded project.

It is noteworthy that the new project coincides with a growing movement of “sobering centers” in the United States. In September, a team from OKC Metro Alliance attended a one-day summit in San Diego with approximately 60 other people representing sobering centers from across the nation. It is estimated that there are 40 programs nationally. Both Tulsa and Austin, Texas opened Sobering Centers this past summer.

Oklahoma City’s PIA opened 45 years ago and is one of the oldest sobering centers in the country. CASPAR, Inc. Emergency Service Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts opened in 1970. These programs offer individuals the opportunity to “sleep off” their intoxication and reenter society without criminal charges. The current growth of these programs reflects the public’s desire to divert individuals from the over-crowded jails and emergency rooms. The Vera Institute reported public drunkenness was the number one most frequent underlying municipal charge for individuals in Oklahoma County Jail.