The Dan Austin Center, run by the St. Vincent De Paul Society of Juneau, is once again the home of Capital City Fire/Rescue’s Community Assistance Response and Emergency Services sobering center. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

The Dan Austin Center, run by the St. Vincent De Paul Society of Juneau, is once again the home of Capital City Fire/Rescue’s Community Assistance Response and Emergency Services sobering center. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Officials say sobering center operating smoothly

Pickups for the community health program are split between the Valley and downtown.

Juneau’s Sobering Center has made its way home to the Dan Austin Center, moving back to its location near the airport in July after working out of Centennial Hall for nearly a year.

The service, which falls under Capital City Fire/Rescue’s Community Assistance Response and Emergency Services program, is running smoothly, said CARES manager Joe Mishler.

“Our numbers have pretty well equalized. We were initially trying to think of a way to relocate downtown because that’s where most of our calls are,” Mishler said in a phone interview. “Once the Glory Hall opened up in the valley, we noticed our pickups shifted with it.

[To the rescue: Helping birds soar again]

Calls are now split evenly between the Mendenhall Valley and downtown Juneau, Mishler said.

“It’s grown into a mutually pretty smooth operation. It’s worked out with the space we had,” said Dave Ringle, general manager of the St. Vincent De Paul Society of Juneau, which runs the Dan Austin Center, in a phone interview. “We work together to make sure each group is successful.”

The sobering center exists as a sort of middle gear, Mishler said – an option for an intoxicated person that’s better than passing out outdoors, and isn’t an ambulance trip to the emergency room.

“I’ve worked in EMS on the ambulance since 1983,” Mishler said. “What happens if someone sees someone passed out is the ambulance picks them and takes them to the ER which is often not the best place for them.”

With funding from the state aimed at pushing as much care as possible out of hospital to keep the facilities clear for more urgent cases during the pandemic, what was previously an 8 p.m.-8 a.m. duty became a 24-hour operation, with two personnel on during each 12-hour post.

“We launched it with one paramedic and we expanded it with the state having a desire to decompress the hospitals,” Mishler said.

Having two personnel on duty allows one to monitor any clients at the sobering center while the other operates the van to go retrieve pickups. The sobering center staff also try to convey someone who might not meet the criteria for staying in the sobering center to the warming shelter for the evening, Mishler said.

“Some people will call us directly. Some of the businesses will call us directly,” Mishler said. “A lot of people call 911, and they (911) call us.”

In many cases, both EMS and the sobering center will respond so they can determine what the client needs, Mishler said. Once a client is taken back to the sobering center, they get their vitals taken by the CARES personnel and are given a mat to sleep off their inebriation on.

“They’re monitored with staff,” Mishler said. “Once they’re down below a .08, we let them know where they’re at, and it’s time to be on their way. We do a final discharge set of vitals, and help them on their way. We might assist them with getting something warmer, something with more environmental protection.”

The sobering center’s location, hosted by SVDP, is helpful for this — clients can get warmer clothing from the racks there. SVDP provides the space, as well as cleaning and laundry services. It also goes the other way, with CARES helpful for providing medical assistance or answering medical-related questions if needed at SVDP, Ringle said; a mutually beneficial relationship.

“We’ve adjusted. To me, there have been very few disruptions. If nothing else, we can help out with clothing,” Ringle said. “As far as the sobering center goes, they’re just another part of life around here.”

The proximity to the Glory Hall and the Glory Hall’s new interior, which features individual bedrooms, has also helped streamline the pickup process in some cases, and reduced calls others.

“We’re down to an average of about one a night or day. We’ve had a few times where we haven’t had anybody. That’s been a new thing,” Mishler said. “I think time will tell how much this stays or where it’ll end up.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 15

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

Juneau School District administrators and board members review the updated budget for the current fiscal year during a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The Juneau School District had a $9.5M projected deficit this year. It’s now a $633,185 surplus. How is that possible?

Resignation of 34 employees since January, health insurance savings among reasons, officials say.

Rep. Sara Hannan (right) offers an overview of this year’s legislative session to date as Rep. Andi Story and Sen. Jesse Kiehl listen during a town hall by Juneau’s delegation on Thursday evening at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Multitude of education issues, budget, PFD among top areas of focus at legislative town hall

Juneau’s three Democratic lawmakers reassert support of more school funding, ensuring LGBTQ+ rights.

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, mayor of the Inupiaq village of Nuiqsut, at the area where a road to the Willow project will be built in the North Slope of Alaska, March 23, 2023. The Interior Department said it will not permit construction of a 211-mile road through the park, which a mining company wanted for access to copper deposits. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
Biden shields millions of acres of Alaskan wilderness from drilling and mining

The Biden administration expanded federal protections across millions of acres of Alaskan… Continue reading

Allison Gornik plays the lead role of Alice during a rehearsal Saturday of Juneau Dance Theatre’s production of “Alice in Wonderland,” which will be staged at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé for three days starting Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
An ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that requires quick thinking on and off your feet

Ballet that Juneau Dance Theatre calls its most elaborate production ever opens Friday at JDHS.

Caribou cross through Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in their 2012 spring migration. A 211-mile industrial road that the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority wants to build would pass through Gates of the Arctic and other areas used by the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, one of the largest in North America. Supporters, including many Alaska political leaders, say the road would provide important economic benefits. Opponents say it would have unacceptable effects on the caribou. (Photo by Zak Richter/National Park Service)
Alaska’s U.S. senators say pending decisions on Ambler road and NPR-A are illegal

Expected decisions by Biden administration oppose mining road, support more North Slope protections.

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 13. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House members propose constitutional amendment to allow public money for private schools

After a court ruling that overturned a key part of Alaska’s education… Continue reading

Danielle Brubaker shops for homeschool materials at the IDEA Homeschool Curriculum Fair in Anchorage on Thursday. A court ruling struck down the part of Alaska law that allows correspondence school families to receive money for such purchases. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Lawmakers to wait on Alaska Supreme Court as families reel in wake of correspondence ruling

Cash allotments are ‘make or break’ for some families, others plan to limit spending.

Most Read