Santa Clara County

South Bay Sobering Center Expanding to Help Meth Users

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Santa Clara County plans to open a sobering center to help those under the influence of methamphetamine rather than just throwing them in jail.

The Mission Street sobering center already helps those under the influence of alcohol, but soon will expand to include meth users as well as those with mental health issues starting March 4.

The sobering center in San Jose is a low-key facility set up with reclining chairs ideal for trying to help people brought in under the volatile influence of meth.

"We like the individuals to sleep and have a calm environment," said Tina Sentner, sobering center director.

The sobering center is a reaction to meth becoming the drug of choice in the South Bay. The police department reports more than 60% of citations and arrests involve meth use or possession. The drug use has also become a major problem in homeless encampments.

Anyone under the influence involved in a crime will not be brought to the center, but will be referred to treatment programs.

"If that's not treated, it will lead to worse and worse behavior," Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. "And (it) often does lead to more serious criminal behavior."

County leaders also said those with non-violent mental health issues will also be allowed in and treated at the same facility as meth users.

"In some instances, people who are in meth can exhibit mental health issues -- like hallucinations or paranoia," Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said.

The sobering center is a pilot program like the one that opened in San Francisco. Coordinators said there is a lot for them to learn about meth users before expanding the program further.

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