By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — With no better option available, the City Council held its nose Monday and approved a contract with Blue Earth County for the transportation of drunk people to detox facilities.
Roughly 500 people a year are driven out of Mankato, mostly to a facility in New Ulm, because they are too drunk to care for themselves but haven’t committed a crime serious enough to land them in jail, Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges said.
“... and these for the most part are constituents that unfortunately cannot be placed with a responsible adult in most cases,” he said.
So Mankato community service officers end up acting like expensive taxi drivers. Under the deal, the city would continue to be reimbursed $64.44 per hour, but that’s not the problem.
“Obviously, this ties up considerable resources,” Hentges said. And detox trips don’t come at convenient times — they’re most common on the busy evenings when law enforcement is tied up elsewhere.
“It’s not ideal, though, we would love other options, more convenient options,” he said.
There is apparently no low-hanging fruit here, though. Universities, for example, are understandably reluctant to take on this responsibility, though Hentges said the city is looking for ways to get drunk students in the care of dorm staff.
Another option is to do more to find a responsible adult to care for the person instead of quickly taking the person to New Ulm. That requires officers to “more or less babysit an individual” until someone can be found, though.