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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Health response revealed ahead of drunkenness change

The Victorian government and health groups have revealed how cases of public drunkenness will be handled within 24 hours of it being decriminalised.



Authorities have sought to reassure Victorians as the state moves to decriminalise public drunkenness on Melbourne Cup Day.


The Victorian government and health services on Monday outlined how the health-led response will work from Tuesday when public intoxication is no longer a crime.


The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service will operate a 24/7 phone service to triage and dispatch help.


There will be 29 call-takers from the across the state who will also provide non-clinical advice to outreach teams and sobering centre staff.


Outreach teams will help drunk people reconnect with friends or family, provide public transport options and even offer to charge their phone if it runs out of battery.


When a person doesn't want help, the person may be left alone if deemed safe to do so.


Victorians should still phone triple zero if they see a drunk person in public.


A 20-bed sobering up centre on Cambridge Street in Collingwood, run by cohealth, was originally meant to open by Tuesday but construction delays mean it won't be ready until the end of November.


The not-for-profit community health service will continue to operate a six-bed trial site on Gertrude Street in Collingwood and mobile vans until the expanded site opens.


Mobile vans will only be allowed to transport two people at a time.


People taken to sobering up centres are not expected to be stay for longer than 12 hours.


Cohealth will employ 40 staff across both its outreach teams and Collingwood sobering centre and has unveiled its new pink uniforms and branded vehicles ahead of Tuesday's rollout.


The uniforms are designed to distinguish its public intoxication outreach workers from navy-clad police and emergency service workers.


"We want to create a feeling of safety and calm, especially for clients who have had negative experiences with police and institutions, and even our uniforms can impact client interactions," cohealth deputy chief executive Christopher Turner said.


Mr Turner insisted cohealth was ready to deliver the new service after helping hundreds of drunk people during trials.


"Providing an on-the-ground health response means we can reduce demand on police and ambulance, but we'll have the ability to escalate to emergency services if required," he said.


Dedicated Aboriginal outreach services will also operate in Melbourne, Frankston and Wyndham.


The Victorian government committed to decriminalising public drunkenness at the start of an inquest into the 2017 death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day.


She was arrested for being drunk in a public place and died after hitting her head in a concrete cell at Castlemaine Police Station.


A coroner found her death was preventable.


Victoria is the second last state to transition to a health-based response to public intoxication.


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