Lincoln, Neb. — Three guys stumbled down the street toward Lincoln police officer Jenny Mullendore, clinging onto each other’s shoulders, doing everything they could to help the one in the middle stay on his feet.
“How we doin’?” the officer asked.
“We’re doing pretty good; we got him,” the one on the right responded, knowing without a doubt what the officer was questioning.
“Get home safe,” Officer Mullendore responded, in a mother-like tone.
Had the guy in the middle been staggering down the sidewalk by himself, the officer could have “thrown him in the drunk tank.”
Officers can take violators of drinking laws and drunken people who have no one to take care of them to the local detoxification facility, which officially is called Cornhusker Place.
As part of a Nebraska law, officers can take inebriated people to the facility to sober up and receive an education about alcohol abuse, instead of spending a night in jail.
Officers take people to the nonprofit organization after some incidents — for example, being a minor in possession of alcohol or driving under the influence. After spending time at Cornhusker Place, the person still could be arrested, depending on the severity of what they did.
The emergency detoxification center, which is about a mile from Lincoln’s downtown bar district, works with people 14 and older who have overindulged.
Clients of the 21-bed substance abuse treatment facility cannot leave until 24 hours have passed, they’re completely sober, or they’re released to a responsible person who has not been drinking.
“It’s a chance to provide an intervention with them,” said Phil Tegeler, Cornhusker Place executive director. “It’s really worked out well for our community.”
Tegeler said his staff motivates clients not to put themselves in danger with alcohol, or in a situation that would require them to return to the facility.
“We hope we don’t see you; if we see you more than once, there’s one reason for concern there,” Tegeler said.
The organization also surveys clients to identify trends in drinking habits and problems.
One bit of information the city’s internal liquor committee has found useful is the agency’s “last drink data,” which indicates the last place the client had a drink before their run-in with law enforcement.
City councilman John Spatz said the data shows which bars are contributing most to high-risk drinking problems in Lincoln.