CenterPointe, People’s City Mission step in to provide Civil Protective Custody services for law enforcement

Civil Protective Custody is for those who are intoxicated and being investigated for DUI or are publicly inebriated with nowhere to go
10/11 NOW at 6
Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 5:57 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Multiple community organizations are coming together to fill a gap left by The Bridge Behavioral Health, which allowed contracts with law enforcement for Civil Protective Custody to expire this fall, and stakeholders told 10/11 NOW so far, it’s going well.

“It’s not a problem anybody wanted, but it certainly hasn’t been a bad process,” Sean Flowerday, Lancaster County Commissioner said.

Now, when someone is taken into civil protective custody for being intoxicated, they’ll be taken to the care of one of two non-profits. First, if they’re being investigated for driving under the influence or just need to be reunited with a safe and sober person, they’ll go to a trailer at 6th and J streets called LinkPointe. It’s staffed by CenterPointe and made up of two rooms. In the first, officers will finish their investigations and hand them off to crisis counselors.

“We do some basic vitals to make sure that they are medically stable, screen for suicide, gather some information, complete our paperwork and bring them over to this side,” Amber Dirks, Senior Director of Community Response for CenterPointe said. “We’ll offer them some basic food provisions, something to drink, and let them know they can sit in one of these chairs and wait until somebody can pick them up or until they get to .07.”

Between October and mid-December, 79 people had been through LinkPointe, and Dirks said it’s gone well.

If someone is unhoused and needs a safe place to sleep while intoxicated, police will take them to the People’s City Mission Curtis Center, a transitional housing unit with private rooms. The county has rented out ten rooms and so far 28 people have used the same.

“It’s gone okay, you know there have been a few problems, a few broken windows, and things but for the most part it’s gone really smoothly and we’ve been able to help,” Pastor Tom Barber said.

If neither of these locations is a good fit, anyone who is a threat to others will go to the Lancaster County Jail and anyone in a medical emergency will be taken to the hospital, Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins said this has always been the case. Flowerday added that neither the jail nor the hospital has seen large increases in visits.

These changes have been an adjustment for the non-profits. The People’s City Mission had to hire two additional people to staff the Curtis Center 24/7.

“So we have to check on them every 15 minutes and make sure they’re okay,” Barber said. “That’s the biggest issue is just their own health.”

But Barber said he wanted to get involved because their team is already working with the unhoused population and often will have better relationships and better experiences with them because of their history. He also said the resources they have at hand make it a fairly easy adjustment to make.

“It was kind of a natural connection,” Barber said.

Centerpointe too had to hire three additional people to be available around the clock, but Dirks said this opportunity just furthers their mission.

“We really want to take a harm reduction approach with people and this is just another piece of the crisis continue focusing on harm reduction, trying to help people in their time of need, trying to meet them where they’re at, again, offering them a safe environment,” Dirks said.

The county is paying for the rooms at the Curtis Center and the additional staffing required.

“We live in a special community, Lincoln Lancaster County, we are blessed with, with a wide swath of community organizations, community partners, who are willing to step up to the table and address these problems as they come up,” Flowerday said.

Ewins said while officers always try to connect people arrested for driving under the influence with a responsible person first, having LinkPointe and the People’s City Mission available as options have helped more than 70% of people arrested for DUIs stay out of jail. She said officers have admitted 107 people to the new program.

“This type of program has allowed our officers to have access to locations for care for those cited for DUIs or intoxicated on the streets while providing wrap-around services,” Ewins said. “Wrap-around services is new and is a priority if we intend to get people into recovery.”

While everyone involved said the new Civil Protective Custody process is working, plans are in the works to renovate the old Lincoln Police garage at 6th and J to serve as a permanent structure for a facility like LinkPointe. There’s no timeline for when this building will open. Ewins said the county is taking the right steps in this process to serve this population and also focus on education.

“We will continue to work with the city and community to provide education and alternatives for individuals finding themselves in these situations,” Ewins said.

Ewins also added that minors who are taken into Civil Protective Custody are taken to Cedar’s so they are kept safe and separate from adults.