City of Morgantown hopes to establish ‘Mountaineer Regional Sobering Center’ at old Ramada Inn

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – After more than 10 years of planning, a sobering center is slated to open in the coming year at the old Ramada Inn.

A section of the Mountaineer Regional Sobering Center

The Mountaineer Regional Sobering Center, as it’s officially called, will take up just over 5,000 sq. ft. of interior space, have roughly 20 mobile cots for individuals and stays will be voluntary. The idea is the facility will be an alternative to jail or crowded emergency departments. It was built and will be leased from Morgantown Community Resources, which spent between $300,000 – $400,000 to renovate it.

Assistant Morgantown City Manager Emily Muzzarelli said the idea would be law enforcement, EMS, hospitals, and even West Virginia University could drop someone off who is intoxicated from drugs and or alcohol. The length of stay will vary, typically between four and 12 hours. And the plan is for it to be open 12 hours a, day six days a week, initially.

Muzzarelli

It’s so great to know that the hard work and research and efforts that have been done over the last 10 years are finally coming to fruition. This is primarily with the assistance of the CARES Act funding from the state to really see this be where it’s at. And we’re closer than we’ve ever been and it’s so great to have the community support behind us to make it a reality.

Emily Muzzarelli – Assistant City Manager

Making the Sobering Center, a reality will require a few more steps. Although space has already been built, there are still matters of funding and finding an organization to run the facility.

Muzzarelli standing next to Star City Police Chief (center) and a Morgantown Police Officer during tour

The city has created the following timeline for the future:

  • Identify Board of Directors and Officers
  • Create Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
  • Obtain insurance coverage
  • Develop Non-Profit Operating Plan
  • Apply to IRS for 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status
  • File for State and City Business License
  • Hire Executive Director
  • Hire Staff and Develop Standard Operation Procedures and Manuals
  • Establish Lease Agreement with Morgantown Community Resources
  • Complete Set-Up and open Mountaineer Regional Sobering Center

Many steps have yet to be completed. Right now, the city has offered $100,000 and so has the Monongalia Co. Commission. However, it will cost roughly $370,000 to run the center in the first year.

Muzzarelli explaining how the center will work

The breakdown of that is as follows:

  • Personnel Costs – $220,000
  • Personnel Benefits – $55,000
  • Rent/Utilities (to Morgantown Community Resources) – $32,000
  • Operating Supplies – $15,000
  • Insurance – $15,000
  • Other – $18,000
  • First Year Capital – $15,000

“As far as funding partners, I think anytime someone is asking for money, we’re really open to wherever that money is coming from,” Muzzarelli said. “But our thought is that it would be any agency that may be working with folks who may be intoxicated, such as law enforcement, or Sheriff’s Department, or potentially hospitals, EMS, the university. Those would be people that we would initially think of as funding partners.”

A section of the sobering center

As mentioned earlier, funding and operational partners are just one of the missing pieces remaining. The other is hiring someone to run the facility and the city would prefer a nonprofit.

It also plans to hire an executive director by early July and have the center open by the fall.

“I am pretty confident that we will get a great executive director for this nonprofit,” Muzzarelli said. “I think it is shooting for the stars a little bit, to hope to open in the fall, but I think it’s really important to keep moving forward as aggressively as possible.”

Once the Mountaineer Sobering Center is officially open, Muzzarelli said she is confident it will run properly.

That’s because Morgantown has collaborated with the “world-renowned” Austin Sobering Center and the National Sobering Center to learn how to function effectively, the assistant city manager said.

Farris (center) stands next to Muzzarelli during tour

Her excitement for the future was shared by WVU’s Dean of Students, Corey Farris. Farris got to take a tour of the facility along with the Morgantown and Star City Police Chiefs, as well as the Mayors of Star City and Morgantown.

“The regional sobering center will be an exciting addition to our community to help out those that may need the assistance for short-term or long-term care,” Farris said. “It’s another tool for our university, the city, and police agencies to use if needed instead of taking people to jail.”

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