NewsLocal News


Groups propose sobering center aimed at helping homeless in downtown Billings

Sobering Center.jpg
Posted at 10:04 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 11:26:13-04

The Billings Police Department, the Downtown Billings Alliance and local nonprofits want to put together a sobering center.

Currently, people go either to the hospital or to jail.

Those involved in the project say this would help out financially as well as help out the people who are repeatedly intoxicated.

Brad Mansur.jpg
KTVQ photo

"We do have all over the city issues with vagrancy, transiency, open container, consumption, loitering," said Officer Brad Mansur of the Billings Police Department. "We have a gap in services and what that means is we have a hospital, we have a jail and in the middle we're missing a key component of that. If we had that service in the middle, the sobering center which would bridge the gap, we would have the opportunity to give services to 100% of the population out here that are living on the streets and living in their addictions."

Mansur and Officer Phil Tanis are downtown resource officers.

The proposed sobering center or detox facility comes from a report they released in July.

That report shows 93 people with repeated crimes or contact with officers cost the department more than $10 million last year.

Hospitals and other emergency responders also have increased costs.

Mansur said a sobering center would help many, including that group of 93 called Chronic High Utilizers in the report.

"While they're sleeping we get an opportunity to line up whatever resources we think might be necessary for them," Mansur said. "And so when they wake up, if it's Rimrock or RiverStone health care for the homeless or the mental health center, whoever's going to be appropriate, we'd work on getting an individual from that organization to come down and meet with them before they leave."

Rimrock Foundation workers.jpg
KTVQ photo

"We mentor them and we give them directions because we come from similar lifestyles," said Randy Bear Don't Walk, Rimrock Foundation peer support specialist. "We've gone through a lot of what they're going through."

"We do a lot of outreach talking to the people down downtown and finding out what their needs are," said Kally Plettner, also a Rimrock Foundation peer support specialist.

"The problem is huge and you know we're in crisis when it comes to addiction, alcoholism and mental illness so any resource we have is helpful," Annette Redding, Rimrock Foundation director of peer support, said about a sobering facility.

The Downtown Billings Alliance will also be involved with the center through its Motivated Addiction Alternative Program or MAAP.

"With the sobering center working with, in part the MAAP program, we can access more people," said Kody Christensen-Linton, the alliance's resource outreach coordinator.

Mansur said the idea of a sobering center has been shown to work, nationwide,

"We're not reinventing the wheel, and we don't want to," Mansur said. "We just want to bring something to us that we have seen time and time again work elsewhere."

The group Gratitude In Action is expected to soon announce the location of the sobering center.