Public Intoxication Response Service – Information for community and residents

cohealth has been selected by the Victorian Government to deliver a health-based response to public drunkenness. The new service will include street-based outreach teams, transportation services across metro Melbourne, and a 20-bed support centre in Collingwood.

A member of cohealth's Public Intoxication Response Service team wearing a pink shirt and standing by somebody drinking from a water bottle
A member of cohealth’s Public Intoxication Response Service assisting a member of the public

Representing a fundamental shift in the way that we as a community respond to public drunkenness, cohealth’s Sobering Service will keep people safe, avoid unnecessary contact with police, and create a safer and more supportive environment for vulnerable members of our community.

After delivering a 12-month trial Sobering Service in the City of Yarra, we saw that providing an on-the-ground health response reduced ambulance callouts and diverted people from emergency departments. We also saw a cross-section of the community respond to the service for support. 

“From young people separated from their friends who are highly intoxicated, people who’ve had one too many after-work drinks, and people who are homeless and alcohol-affected, our service will be for everyone” – Nicole Bartholomeusz, cohealth Chief Executive.

We anticipate that it will be a great comfort to many people knowing that if their loved ones are intoxicated in public there will be a team of health workers to respond and make sure they’re safe. Additionally, the Sobering Service will provide the opportunity to connect people to alcohol and other drug treatment, family violence services, and mental health support if they need it.

Over the coming months we will be confirming what the Service will look like, how it will operate, and the details of the support centre at 3 Cambridge St Collingwood. We look forward to talking with you about the service and listening to your feedback. We also plan to consult with the community about the name of the centre before we open our doors.

Do you have any questions or feedback on the Sobering Service?

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Frequently Asked Questions

To support the Victorian Government’s recent passing of legislation to decriminalise public drunkenness, the Sobering Service offers a health-led approach that ensures people who are intoxicated in public have the support they need to stay safe.

The new service will save lives, improve people’s health, and reduce the burden on police and other emergency services.

Our street-based outreach teams and transportation services will help people who are intoxicated in public get the immediate support they need, such as providing water and helping them find a safe way home.

Most people who require assistance by our outreach teams on a night out won’t need to visit the support centre on Cambridge St, Collingwood, but those who do will be under the care of our trained health workers.

In prior Sobering Service trials, 75% of people receiving support from street-based outreach teams have not needed to attend a support centre.

The Sobering Service will improve community amenity by assisting intoxicated people at risk of harm to find a safe way home, or providing a supervised environment for them to sober up and return home when they’re able.

cohealth operates 32 sites across Melbourne, including drug and alcohol support services, and we pride ourselves on being a good neighbour. We’re committed to operating a discreet service which has minimal impact on neighbouring residents.

Whenever establishing a new service, cohealth engages with local residents and businesses to discuss the service and hear any concerns they might have. We’ll be conducting letter drops and visits to the neighbourhood to speak with residents and listen to their feedback.

The Victorian Department of Health are also planning a community forum to ensure clear communication around the service.

Sign up for updates on the Sobering Service below to hear about upcoming events.

cohealth is working to roll out a safe and effective service by 7 November as the decriminalisation of public drunkenness comes into effect.

Once the service is active, a hotline will operate 7 days a week that members of the community can use to contact the Sobering Service if they are concerned about someone who is drunk in public. This will free up police and ambulances to concentrate on critical incidents.

The sobering service trial in the City of Yarra showed the value of collaboration with police. Our aim is to prevent intoxicated people from having unnecessary contact with police, though police will still play a role if someone poses a threat to themselves, our staff, or the community.


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About us

cohealth is a not-for-profit community health organisation. We provide essential health and support services in Melbourne’s CBD, and northern and western suburbs.

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