NEWS RELEASE: Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson shares next steps in work to open 24-hour dropoff sobering center

April 30, 2024

The Board of Commissioners receives a briefing on Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards' proposal for a 24/7 dropoff sobering center on April 18, 2024.
Multnomah County, Ore. (April 30, 2024) — Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson on Tuesday, April 30, said the search is on, with a design firm hired, for a building that can host a 24-hour, drop-off sobering center starting this September. 

The Chair also said she will use her executive authority as needed to speed up work to open the sobering center, among a series of updates on the County’s ongoing work to comply with House Bill 4002.  

The Chair’s announcement follows an April 18 presentation to the Board of Commissioners by Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards, who shared a detailed plan for a sobering center and transportation service assembled in partnership with subject matter experts and other local governments. 

The sobering center will serve as part of an overall package of deflection services that provide an alternative to jail for people cited for using drugs. Such pre-booking intake services are a key part of HB 4002, which modified Measure 110 by recriminalizing possession of hard drugs while also providing funding for treatment. The Chair has committed to opening deflection services by Sept. 1.

The sobering center plan calls for $25 million to open and operate the center and $14 million a year to operate the center going forward. The Oregon State Legislature has allocated $25 million to help fund these services as well as deflection intake.

The Chair confirmed the County will initially focus on voluntary sobering and deflection intake services. Involuntary sobering services will be phased in as the center gets established and prepared for a variety of client types.

“I directed my staff and our county departments to move swiftly to make these new sobering services a reality – including the addition of expanded intake and the basic services to accommodate people who will most benefit from deflection,” Chair Vega Pederson said. “I expect this project to move forward quickly and nimbly so these resources can be available for our community as soon as possible.”

“We need a place other than jail, emergency rooms, or leaving people on the street. I remain focused on standing up the sobering center and I think it can serve, at least in part, as a deflection point for some people. I’m appreciative of the Chair’s executive direction to county staff to begin siting and procuring this vital public safety service,” Commissioner Brim-Edwards said.

Among the additional updates:

  • County facilities personnel have begun the search for facilities that meet the needs of these projects and the urgency to open basic deflection services by Sept 1.
  • A facilities project manager is assigned, with a design firm selected.
  • The County has created an executive committee within the multi-jurisdictional Local Public Safety Coordinating Council to make policy decisions and offer direction around HB 4002 and deflection. This group has involvement from justice partners, including the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, and Portland Police Bureau, as well as County departments, treatment providers and community members.
  • An internal County implementation and oversight team has been created to manage the rollout of implementation of deflection and sobering services, including County departments, the County’s chief operating officer, the Chair’s office (which recently hired a dedicated policy adviser to work on HB 4002), and other experts as needed.
  • The chief operating officer’s office has launched a procurement scoping process to determine the best and fastest way to contract with skilled providers for deflection services. That can include using the Chair’s authority to speed up the procurement portion of the work to launch the sobering center and deflection services. (Executive authority to expedite procurement doesn’t affect contract negotiations and other work, for instance.)
  • The County applied for a grant from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to support the planning work;  a longer-form application for those funds is due in the coming days.

“To Commissioner Brim-Edwards in particular, thank you for all of your work to create and consider an initial proposal around a 24/7 drop off and sobering center,” Chair Vega Pederson said in a letter sent to partners Monday, April 29, sharing many of these updates. ”I know a significant amount of time went into working with partners, gathering feedback and putting a plan together.

“Having a place for our community members who are struggling with addiction is critical, and I am eager for the County to keep the urgency and forward-momentum on this project as one of our biggest priorities.”