Marion County Sheriff Revives 'Drunk Tank'

Detox Unit Could Save Taxpayers More Than $1M Annually

An experimental program that could change public intoxication arrest and evaluation procedures may save Indianapolis taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department is reviving a concept that was previously known as the “drunk tank” with the department’s detox unit.

Officials said more than 100,000 Hoosiers are arrested on charges of public intoxication each year, and most go to the hospital before they go to jail.

Emergency room treatment and ambulance trips cost taxpayers more than $1,000,000 each year, RTV6's Jack Rinehart reported.

"The (suspects) were able to understand their names, addresses and who they were, but they were still going to Wishard (Memorial Hospital). So, we investigated how Wishard was handling the intoxicated folks. They were literally there just sleeping it off,” said Manny Mendez, of the Office of Audit and Performance.

Instead of sending suspects to the hospital, the sheriff's department has created a detox unit within the city’s Arrestee Processing Center.

Officials said everyone accused of public intoxication will be admitted to the detox unit for evaluation by the APC’s medical staff.

A study by the city's division of internal audit showed that more than 90 percent of the illegally intoxicated people transported to Wishard were never admitted, which means they could have gone to the APC at no expense to taxpayers.

“If we can just capture the people that are just intoxicated, (instead of) the ones that are not otherwise intoxicated, we could save a lot of money,” said Lt. Col. Louis Dezelan.

The implementation of the program comes at a much-needed time, with the sheriff's department facing a $16 million budget shortfall, with $15 million of the shortage related to health care expenses generated by arrestees and inmates, officials said.

"The bottom line is it's going to save the taxpayers money. That was a brilliant idea to bring (the detox unit) back so that police officers on the street, when they have an intoxicated individual, they now have options,” Marion County Sheriff John Layton said.

In just the first two weeks of the program, officials said the detox unit has saved Marion County taxpayers more than $11,000.

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