Victoria’s first dedicated sobering up centre will be set up in Collingwood ahead of the decriminalisation of public drunkenness in the state.

The 20-bed facility is a key part of the Andrews government’s commitment to shift away from dealing with public drunkenness as a crime and treating it as a health issue.

Under the revised approach, outreach services will support people intoxicated in public and transport them to a safe place to rest and sober up if necessary, Mental Health Minister Gabrielle Williams said.

While a safe place for many would be with a family member, friend or carer, for some it would be at the centre, she said.

The new policy is expected to take effect on Melbourne Cup day, November 7, with construction on the Collingwood centre slated to start soon.

The site was chosen for its accessibility and proximity to the CBD, as well as to meet the area’s high demand for public intoxication services, Ms Williams said.

“For too long, public drunkenness laws have caused great pain to some of our community’s most vulnerable,” she said.

“There is still a lot of work to do but there is no doubt these services will save lives.”

The minister said not-for-profit organisation cohealth would operate the general services stream of Victoria’s health-based approach to public drunkenness, including the sobering centre.

Specially trained staff would work alongside local health and social support services to ensure those using the centre had access to support for other issues including drugs, family violence and homelessness.

A dedicated phone line would be set up to field referrals, while people could have outreach teams take them to the centre or otherwise walk in themselves.

Co-health deputy chief executive Christopher Turner said the organisation was proud to be selected to run the health-based response which would include deploying mobile vans across metropolitan Melbourne.

The sobering up service would be modelled off its successful trial in the City of Yarra, Mr Turner said.

“From disorientated young people who’ve lost their mates late at night to people who’ve had one too many after-work drinks and people who are homeless and alcohol-affected, our service will be for everyone,” he said.

Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police would continue to respond to instances of public intoxication where there were emergency health concerns or community safety was at risk, Ms Williams said.

The Police Association of Victoria has previously criticised the shift to a health-based approach.

CEO Wayne Gatt said the Collingwood facility was fine for people in inner-Melbourne but those in regional Victoria could be left in the lurch.

He also questioned whether the sobering up centre would be complete by November.

“We’re three months out from this reform going live and we’re no closer to answering the plethora of questions we raised two years ago,” he said.

The Victorian government committed to decriminalising public drunkenness at the start of a 2019 coronial inquest into the death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day.

Ms Day was arrested for being drunk in a public place in December 2017 and later died after she hit her head on a wall in a concrete cell at Castlemaine Police Station.

Her death was preventable, a coroner found.

Ms Williams said additional outreach and sobering services for Aboriginal people would be rolled out in response to a recommendation by the coronial inquest.

Queensland is the only state that hasn’t moved to decriminalise public intoxication.

Source: AAP