About us

Audience of educational forum

NSC provides support to 60+ sobering centers reaching an estimated 121,260 clients annually representing approximately 333,600 visits.

Who we are


A system that prioritizes safety, care, and support for vulnerable populations and communities suffering from harmful substance use and addiction


To support the expansion of and advance the best practices for sobering care services to provide short-term, easy-to-access, and safe environments for recovery from alcohol and/or other drug intoxication.


NSC was founded in 2015 by three medical professionals in search of a solution outside traditional criminal and emergency systems to serve people with harmful substance use. In 2019, the organization incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit and hired its first Executive Director in 2022. 

Today, NSC is a nationwide organization with deep local ties and growing momentum, well-positioned to create crucial systems change in how we talk about, address, and meet the needs of communities impacted by substance misuse. 

NSC provides support to 60+ sobering centers reaching an estimated 121,260 clients annually representing approximately 333,600 visits. The organization offers a forum for national dialogue and provides a platform for providers and stakeholders to engage regarding best practices, policy and program operations. NSC has brought together hundreds of parties through its annual summit, monthly network calls and membership resources. Board members have led dozens of national and regional conference presentations on sobering care.

About Sobering Centers

What is a sobering center?

A Sobering Center is often the front door to recovery and a more stable life for society’s most vulnerable populations, addressing the needs of the here and now and working with community partners for additional services.

It is a safe, supportive, and supervised environment caring for publicly intoxicated individuals until they are sober.

A Sobering Center is Not

  • A “drunk tank”
  • Social or medical detoxification
  • A sober living program
  • A treatment program

What are some benefits?

For individuals

  • No cost temporary stay until able to return safely to the community
  • Referrals for behavioral and physical health and social services
  • Prevention of criminal record
For communities
  • Community safety
  • Prevention of unnecessary health and public safety expenses
  • Reduced jail and emergency room crowding
  • Increased medical professional and law enforcement time to handle more appropriate issues

What characterizes a sobering center?

  • Accessible: available 24/7 to those in need
  • Collaborative: operates in partnership with local law enforcement, emergency services, and/or health and community organizations
  • Community-based: responsive to local needs
  • Cost-effective: avoids unnecessary interaction with more costly systems
  • Non-punitive: avoids criminalizing substance use disorders
  • Safe: regular monitoring by specialized staff
  • Trauma-informed: acknowledges the widespread impact of societal injustices

Quick facts

$ 0 b
$24.6 billion healthcare costs to emergency departments for acute alcohol intoxication
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annual emergency department visits from uncomplicated alcohol intoxication
0 %
of deaths among adults age 20-49 attributable to alcohol
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$230 million-$1 billion estimated cost savings in the U.S. with a 50% diversion rate to Sobering Centers
...findings suggest police agencies hold overwhelmingly positive views on the utility of sobering centers, primarily through saving officer time/resources and providing a better alternative for intoxicated individuals than jail."
National Policing Institute research


Board of Directors

Shannon Smith-Bernardin, PhD, RN, CNL

President and Co-founder

School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco

Oakland, CA

Suzanne Jarvis, MPH

Vice President

Houston Recovery Center

Houston, TX

Christie Becker-Markovich


Queen of Peace Center

St. Louis, MO

Laura Elmore, LMSW-AP


The Sobering Center Austin

Austin, TX

Sylvia Barnard

Good Samaritan Shelter

Santa Barbara, CA

Bernard Gyebi-Foster, MBA, LCPC

Tuerk House

Baltimore, MD

Arish Narayen, Esq.

DC Department of Behavioral Health

Washington DC

Jessie Sieger-Walls, PhD, MSW, LCSW

Wellbeing in Action

St. Louis, MO


Shauna Goodman, MPA

Executive Director

(510) 298-0314


Kimberly Balmorez, RN

Graduate Intern


Melissa Vinding

Undergraduate Intern