Faced with a growing opioid epidemic, King County and the City of Seattle have approved two safe injection sites in King County. The Seattle Mayor approved one to be located in Seattle. The location for another is still under discussion. A safe consumption site in our region would be the first in this country. Meanwhile, Speak Out Seattle, a group opposed to safe injection sites, has gathered enough signatures for an initiative banning the proposed sites in King County.
In response to Initiative 27, Protect Public Health has filed a lawsuit seeking to block a public vote on Initiative 27, banning safe injection sites. The lawsuit argues local public-health policy cannot be subject to a veto by citizen initiatives, stating that under state law such decisions are left to local authorities, including the Metropolitan King County Council and the county Board of Health. The lawsuit adds that “voters are in no position to weigh the scientific evidence or understand the impact of vetoing part of a multi-prong response to a local public health crisis.”
In January, two safe injection sites were approved for King County. One was approved for Seattle and the location for the other is being discussed. If the sites are built, they would be the first safe injection sites in the United States. Caleb Banta-Green, Principal Research Scientist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI), spoke with KBCS’s Yuko Kodama about the opioid epidemic in our area. They discuss the proposed safe heroin injection sites in King County. The interview refers to an audio series which KBCS aired over the course of the week. The series was a segments from a podcast produced by Cited out of Vancouver, British Columbia. The link to this series is here.
The debate over safe injection sites in King County is a hot topic. The model for such sites is Insite. The first such site in North America, it’s located in Vancouver, British Columbia and offers a room with harm reduction supplies and staff who know how to resuscitate people after an overdose.
The podcast, Cited, dives into the story of another type of service, Vancouver Canada’s Crosstown Clinic. Here people are actually given government funded, prescription heroin. Thousands of people visit supervised injection facilities. The patients at Crosstown are part of a much smaller club.