Safe injection advocates come to Capitol Hill

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As the local discussion on how to address the heroin epidemic both in Seattle and nationally becoming increasingly potent and urgent — some SPD bike cops are now carrying a heroin overdose antidote to treat street overdoses — advocates for drug policy reform are making the rounds in Seattle this week to promote treating addiction as a health issue and alternative approaches to public drug use like safe injection sites for heroin users.

Wednesday night, 12th Ave Arts will host the founders of a safe injection site based in Vancouver British Columbia called Insite — a non-governmental organization which operates a sanctioned and supervised space where heroin users can obtain clean needles, shoot up in a safe environment, and get connected to health and drug detox services—to discuss their operation, services, results, and harm reduction strategies. The event is being co-hosted by Real Change, the Capitol Hill Community Council, and VOCAL-WA—a local drug policy reform organization. This is the final of four events this week to drum up awareness and support for safe injection sites.

On Monday, the City Council committee on human services and public health heard from Liz Evans, a founder of Insite. She laid out the history of Insite; why she embraced safe injection sites over forcing  detox treatment on heroin users, the drawn-out legal fight with the Canadian federal government to keep the space open, and Insite’s outcomes after servicing Vancouver’s impoverished Downtown Eastside neighborhood for over a decade since it was founded in 2003.

“The controversy should not be some much about whether or not an effective and scientifically proven life-saving intervention like an injection site make sense, but rather the controversy should be around how we have allowed the status quo to persist for such a long time,” said Evans.

12718057_1233658336662456_8448564469934152024_nGetting to Safe: A discussion with the founders of Vancouver’s safe injection facility
Wednesday, March 23, 2015 — 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
12th Ave Arts, 1620 12th Ave

Evans said that Insite receives anywhere from 200 to 800 daily visitors who utilize the twelve on-site injection booths, and that they get 400 people voluntarily signed up for detox programs annual. Evans noted decreases in HIV infection rates in the Downtown Eastside, public disorder, and no noticeable increases in drug use. And, most notably, while around twenty to thirty overdoses occur each month on the premises, Evans said that no one has died at Insite since its conception.

“In terms of accomplishing that goal of saving lives, it’s hands down the most successful intervention I can think of,” she said.

Several VOCAL-WA members and heroin users were in council chambers on Monday to testify after the presentation to the committee.

“I’ve watched so many friends of mine die in the alleys,” said Terina James, a LEAD program participant and heroin user. “I’m not saying hand it [drugs] to them on a silver platter, we’re saying watch them, make sure they’re okay, make sure they’re not using dirty needles.”

Wednesday night’s event on safe injection sites at 12th Ave Arts will start at 6:30 PM. Learn more about Insite and VOCAL-WA. Also, read this recently published blunt and damning quote from a former policy advisor to the czar of the U.S. war on drugs, president Richard Nixon, on the motivations behind the drug war.

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