Council urges sober-up stay open

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Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
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The Greater Geraldton City Council is calling on the WA Government to keep Geraldton Sobering Up Centre open.

The centre is earmarked for closure on the morning of New Year’s Eve after the Mental Health Commission cut funding for the service.

“The closure of this centre will probably result in people dying and the State Government will have blood on its hands,” Cr Lewis Freer said.

He was seconding an elected member’s motion by Cr Natasha Colliver which also acknowledged the essential service the centre provided to vulnerable people suffering from the immediate effects of alcohol and substance abuse.

Cr Colliver moved her motion after hearing a presentation from sobering-up centre operator Hope Community Services about the services the centre provided and the impact of closing its doors.

She said the burden of looking after drunken people would now fall on police and the city’s hospital, putting health workers at physical risk, and drunks’ families also at risk.

“The sobering-up centre pro-vided the option of removing the partner from the home,” she said.

“Now, the women and children will have to flee, and the only women’s and children’s refuge in Geraldton is already at capacity most nights.

“I am seeking council’s support to urgently request that the Government reconsider their decision to close the centre.”

Cr Robert Hall described the closure as a “serious retrograde step”.

“We need to speak for our law enforcement officers because they cannot speak for themselves, they are politically bound,” he said.

Cr David Caudwell said closing the centre would cost the State Government more money as law enforcement and medical services costs rose.

He also took the WA Government to task for closing the centre because it had catered for lower numbers of people than expected.

“I would have thought that was a measure of its success,” he said.

All councillors voted in favour of the motion on December 19.

Mayor Shane Van Styn said sending drunk people into already overcrowded holding cells and already overcrowded hospital emergency departments exacerbated the capacity issues already experienced at these facilities.

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