Hospitals fund drunk tanks...

  1. Under the category of "Sad, but Sensible," San Francisco hospitals, frustrated with chronic homeless alcoholics who sleep it off in emergency room beds, will donate $400,000 so the city can create a safe place for drunks to sober up, hospital and city officials announced Thursday.

    The one-year pilot program is the result of a study by a City Hall task force that found that the number of hours that overcrowded emergency rooms must divert ambulances to other hospitals has grown tenfold in five years.

    Why aren't these people inhabitating a county jail somewhere?

    Full story's here.
    •  
  2. 22 Comments

  3. by   emily_mom
    Just because they have a problem does not mean that they deserved to be locked up. Alcohol does not make you a criminal.. I think it's wonderful that at least SOMEONE cares about them....

    Kristy
  4. by   passing thru
    I've witnessed the homeless crowding the ER's when cold, hungry, or tanked. They know the hospital has to process them, in the meantime one of us could be waiting our turn to see the ER doctor with our chest pain, or our sick child. What is the solution?It seems to me that some problems have no solutions.
  5. by   Tweety
    Why would you think they need to be in jail? Granted they don't need to be crowding up ERs, that's not appropriate. But jail isn't the answer either.
  6. by   sjoe
    3rd shift writes: "Why would you think they need to be in jail?"

    Very simple. There are laws in San Francisco about public intoxication and against drinking in public.

    and: "jail isn't the answer either."

    I don't see any of the "caring" churches, non-profit agencies, etc. offering to take care of these people while they sleep it off. If you have a better way, I hope you will propose it to a local non-profit (or whatever road you decide to take) and set up a program in your own area, where the same problem no doubt exists.

    emily writes: " Alcohol does not make you a criminal.. I think it's wonderful that at least SOMEONE cares about them.... "

    Alcohol does not make you a criminal, no, but your BEHAVIOR might, and does in these cases. The SF County Jail is already sufficiently full of these people, as are the sidewalks and alleyways. Why should the taxpayers be obligated to provide food, housing, medical care, etc. for people who don't wish to take care of their own responsibilities?

    Don't kid yourself about someone caring about these drunks. This is an economic move, since otherwise the hospitals are mandated to evaluate and provide medical care for them, which would cost a lot more than a "safe place."
    Last edit by sjoe on Feb 7, '03
  7. by   NMAguiar
    Why would you think they need to be in jail?
    Sorry, I wasn't clear enough in my original posting. I was referring to why aren't the intoxicated being taken to the local police drunk tank these days to "sober up?" They weren't always arrested, but they were tracked in most jurisdictions as to the number of times they were apprehended -- those "frequent flyers" could then receive help through social programs.

    As far as intoxication in public, citations are sufficient -- more serious crimes are already clogging the courts. But these people certainly don't need to be clogging the emergency rooms!

    Keep in mind: emergency rooms and smaller hospitals are closing in California due to lack of funding. This sounds like an appropriate area to reduce costs. The money spent by these hospitals sounds like money well spent.
  8. by   NMAguiar
    Just because they have a problem does not mean that they deserved to be locked up.
    Well ... actually ... it does mean they need to be locked up -- for their own safety. Their psych issue will hopefully be worked out under the morning sun over a cup of dark java.
  9. by   passing thru
    Yes, sjoe, that does make sense. The economic rationale. Some cities have diminished the numbers of homeless that they have. I think they harassed them until they moved on. San Francisco seems to attract them with its kindness and climate.
    My granny used to tell us that "there's always been people who won't work, and there's always will be. There's always been beggars and drunks, since the beginning of time. And there will always be people like that. That is why we have Christian charity. For the ones who won't change (or can't), we HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF THEM." She didn't resent caring for people like that. She accepted it as a fact of life and allowed a few dollars of their income and a few hours of her week in volunteer work to see to it that they did not go hungry, were warm and clothed, and "not abused." And gave thanks that she was not in their shoes.
  10. by   colleen10
    I have to agree with SJoe on this.

    Unless the inebriated person is in serious emenent harm due to intoxication they have no business being in an ER just because they have no where else to go.

    I imagine the reason that they get picked up or called in is because they are sleeping out in public spaces, which where I live is illegal and can get you landed in jail. Heck, I have seen police officers wait outside local bars and arrest patrons for public drunkeness if they so much as trip on a pebble.

    I don't believe jail is the best place for them either unless they are a harm to others because why should the jails get over run and play baby sitter to drunks, much the same way an ER would have to. But, if there is no public or non-profit agency designed to deal with this problem, I'd rather see them detained in jail than taking up space and wasting resources at the ER. And all they usually get is detained. It's not like they get arrested and sent to prison.

    I have heard that San Francisco's homeless population is out of control, wasn't it a few weeks ago that the people of the city voted against payments made to homeless people?

    I doubt the hospitals are putting this plan into action out of the goodness of their hearts. This is probably the most cost effective way for them to handle an immense and growing problem.
  11. by   emily_mom
    Originally posted by sjoe
    I don't see any of the "caring" churches, non-profit agencies, etc. offering to take care of these people while they sleep it off. If you have a better way, I hope you will propose it to a local non-profit (or whatever road you decide to take) and set up a program in your own area, where the same problem no doubt exists.

    emily writes: " Alcohol does not make you a criminal.. I think it's wonderful that at least SOMEONE cares about them.... "

    Alcohol does not make you a criminal, no, but your BEHAVIOR might, and does in these cases. The SF County Jail is already sufficiently full of these people, as are the sidewalks and alleyways. Why should the taxpayers be obligated to provide food, housing, medical care, etc. for people who don't wish to take care of their own responsibilities?

    Yeah, well sjoe, extreme stress can also cause people to flip out. Does that make every over-worked, stressed out RN/LPN a possible criminal?

    Obviously you don't understand that not ALL homeless people are lazy or "don't wish to take care of their own responsibilities" as you say. Many have mental problems and have been deserted by their families. They have no one to lean on in their time of trouble.

    Imagine if you hadn't bathed in a month or changed your clothes. Forget about brushing your hair or teeth or putting on deoderant. Now go apply for a job.

    While there are always people looking for an easy way out or a handout, please don't generalize all homeless to be a detriment to society. I think the only detriment is that we've ignored this for so long.

    Kristy
  12. by   emily_mom
    FYI- I volunteer at a homeless men's shelter and also for Feed My People foodbank/shelter.

    What have YOU done to help?
  13. by   NMAguiar
    I love your avatar Emily_mom. You've sure opened a can of it today!:roll
  14. by   sjoe
    emily responds: "Obviously you don't understand that not ALL homeless people are lazy or "don't wish to take care of their own responsibilities" as you say."

    The topic of this thread is NOT homeless people, but drunks who would otherwise be in jails or ERs because of their behavior.

    and: "Does that make every over-worked, stressed out RN/LPN a possible criminal? "

    Of course every nurse, stressed out or not, is a possible criminal, as is everyone else. And if this theoretical nurse behaves in a criminal manner, and is relatively obvious about it, then he/she can expect to be arrested at some point.

    and: "I volunteer at a homeless men's shelter and also for Feed My People foodbank/shelter. What have YOU done to help?"

    Good for you, but don't break your arm patting yourself on the back. That is a LOT different from spending several 8-hour shifts/week with them, IMHO.

    NMA writes: 'I was referring to why aren't the intoxicated being taken to the local police drunk tank these days to "sober up?" '

    Well, in San Francisco the tanks are often filled to overflowing, AND sometimes these people are going through DTs, seizures, etc. Perhaps when and if the City has its next budget surplus (I am not holding my breath), it could put more money into more and larger drunk tanks. (That would be an interesting campaign issue. I can see the placards now.) Certainly would be a more cost-effective measure than the ER (except for the lawsuits that result when inmates later complain that they didn't get the healthcare that the Supreme Court has mandated they are entitled to). Many problems.

    colleen writes: "I doubt the hospitals are putting this plan into action out of the goodness of their hearts. This is probably the most cost effective way for them to handle an immense and growing problem."

    Hopefully it will work out.

    The next major problem of the same kind is the street IV drug users, whose abscesses, when I lived there a couple years ago, were costing upwards of $100,000 to treat. Many of my patients had current I&Ds and scores of old scars from previous infections.

    Should the ERs and jails be clogged up with these people? Should taxpayers be shouldering this weight? Should the county hospitals be over-burdened by these costs? Should you or your family members have to wait extra hours in an ER to get treated because of this overload? I haven't seen any effective solutions as yet.
    Last edit by sjoe on Feb 7, '03

close