FARMINGTON – After about a year of preparation, the Sobering Center is set to open Monday.

The center will replace services previously offered by the Four Winds Recovery Center. It is operated through a partnership between the San Juan Regional Medical Center, Presbyterian Medical Services, the city of Farmington and San Juan County.

The Sobering Center is divided by gender and also has private rooms for people who are having a mental health crisis or for transgender individuals. It eventually will be able to serve up to 40 people.

Unlike the Four Winds Recovery Center, the Sobering Center will operate as a voluntary facility. That means no one will be forced to stay at the center, but staff members will alert the police if someone leaves who they believe is too intoxicated to be on the streets.

Leah Collette, a mental health assistant at the Sobering Center, said that will help those who stay there feel more comfortable and welcome.

"If you have to be here, you're not so happy," she said.

The Farmington Police Department is increasing patrols near the Sobering Center, located on Ojo Court, in anticipation of the center opening, according to a press release.

Kristine Carlson, the center's administrator, said patients will meet with mental health assistants prior to discharge, and the counselors will provide them with information about treatment options. For example, patients will have the option of going across the parking lot to the Totah Behavioral Health Authority and enrolling in a treatment program.

The Totah Behavioral Health Authority, which is operated by PMS, offers services like traditional counseling. Robert Curley, the traditional counselor, views alcoholism as a result of a loss of self-identity and cultural identity. He works with patients to reintroduce them to traditional ceremonies.

"If you know your self-identity, then you shouldn't be having any problems with anything," he said.

Another treatment option for patients will be the joint intervention program, a 140-day treatment program. The JIP residential facility will be located next to the Sobering Center and is scheduled to open in the middle of April. It will be able to house up to 45 people.

Carlson said the counselors also will try to determine if the patients have a place to go upon being released.

"We'll try first and foremost to have a family member pick them up," she said.

The Sobering Center also has a different philosophy about treatment than past services. Going with the Totah Behavioral Health Authority's philosophy, the staff will not refer to patients as clients. Instead they call them relatives. Carlson said word choice has an impact on how the patients are viewed. The Totah Behavioral Health Authority bases its philosophy on the Navajo k'é, which focuses on kinship.

"When I'm providing care for you, you're not a stranger coming in off the street," Carlson said. "You're my brother. You're my sister."

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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