How Capitol Hill can get a safe consumption site

syringe found outside my car in capitol hill

It has been nearly two months since local elected leaders announced the formation of a King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force to address the regional and national heroin epidemic, and Seattle leaders have talked of establishing safe consumption sites for drug users around the city. Could Capitol Hill — a neighborhood that experiences a high number of drug overdoses — get a safe consumption site?

Safe consumption sites, which would be a first for Seattle — let alone the United States — may end up getting the green light from county’s task force. Brad Finegood, co-chair of the heroin task force and assistant division director of the King County Behavioral Health and Recovery Division, told CHS that the task force is considering safe consumption spaces and including them in their final set of recommendations that they will present to regional leaders later this year. The task force is made up law enforcement, representatives from the criminal justice system, public health and addiction experts, as well as homeless and drug policy reform advocates.

“There’s no other such facility that’s sanctioned and operating [in the U.S.],” said Finegood. “It’s definitely something that we are trying to be thorough in vetting.”

While alien to the United States, supervised drug consumption sites have a three-decade long history in other nations. The Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland opened what were then dubbed “Drug Consumption Rooms” or DCRs, back in the 80s and 90s to address public order issues associated with open-air drug use by providing addicts and users (mostly targeting users who inject) with low-threshold access to a supervised space to consume pre-obtained illicit drugs, clean equipment, emergency care in the case of overdoses (namely application of the heroin overdose antidote, Naloxone), and referrals to healthcare and drug treatment services if desired by the user. DCRs served as a public health response intending to prevent overdose deaths, reduce disease transmission, and connect addicts with health and drug treatment services. Spain, Norway have since then joined the pack and opened their own DCRs (a safe injection site has also opened in Sydney, Australia), and last year, France moved forward with opening pilot DCR’s in three cities.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the availability of safer injecting facilities increases drug use or frequency of injecting. These services facilitate rather than delay treatment entry and do not result in higher rates of local drug-related crime,” a summary report of DCR implementation in Europe by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction reads.

Closer to home in Vancouver, Canada, health workers opened Insite — North America’s first safe injection site — in the city’s Downtown Eastside neighborhood back in 2003 to address concentrated public drug use and high HIV infection rates with a harm-reduction, public health-minded approach. And, after more than a decade in operation and more than 30 independent studies on the impacts of Insite, the research indicates that fatal overdoses in the neighborhood went down along with drug-related crime and public order in the neighborhood improved. Use of HIV-risk behaviors like syringe sharing declined alongside neighborhood HIV infection rates, and intake at local drug detox treatment facilities went up, and there was no noticeably increase in drug use or drug trafficking in the area.

In addition, Insite has never lost a user to an overdose on its premises since its founding despite experiencing around thirty overdoses per month.

“They [Insite] haven’t had any overdose deaths, and that’s amazing,” said Finegood.

“The public health arguments are absolutely irrefutable,” said Kris Nyrop, national support director for the Law Enforcement Diversion Program (otherwise known as L.E.A.D),  Public Defender Association drug addiction expert, and safe consumption proponent.

Outside of the county’s official heroin task force, most everyone is just starting to dip their toes in the issue. But drug policy reform advocates have been ramping up their calls for safe consumption sites. Last month, Vocal-WA, a group of grassroots activists who are promoting safe consumption sites, brought the founders of the Insite to Seattle to give presentations around the city (including one to city council) on the project and its impact. Vocal-WA held a rally calling for safe consumption sites that also allow for smoking.

The Capitol Hill Community Council has endorsed safe consumption sites and plans to support Vocal-WA’s lobbying efforts, in addition to conducting outreach with other neighborhood councils.

“We’ve heard lots of anecdotes about public drug consumption [in Capitol Hill], people are finding needles on the ground,” said Zachary Pullin, president of the council.

The anecdotes are supported by empirical evidence of broader trends. Annual reports of drug abuse trends in King County released by the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI)  show that drug abuse (primarily of heroin and methamphetamine), fatal overdoses and drug treatment admissions have been on the rise while prescription opiate abuse has been steadily declining (back in 2012, changes in state law made it harder to access prescription opiates like Oxycodone, which experts have attributed to the increase in abuse of street heroin). Last year’s ADAI report for 2014 showed that there 314 overdose deaths in the county, the largest number since 1997,  with 156 of those caused heroin, up from 99 the year before and 29 in 2009. Capitol Hill has been dubbed a overdose hub by researchers and experts.

“For us as a council, to represent all of our neighbors, we want to advocate for things that increase everybody’s quality of life. And when we’re talking about neighbors, we’re not just talking about homeowners or renters, we’re talking about people experiencing homelessness or addiction,” Pullin said.

Local proponents argue there is a legal path for safe consumption. Patricia Sully, an attorney with the Public Defender Association, says there is legal precedent for the King County Department of Health to protect drug consumption sites by declaring a public health emergency. In Washington, health departments in Tacoma and Spokane used their authority to establish needle exchanges in the 80’s and 90’s, actions which were ultimately held up by the courts after legal challenges claiming the exchanges violated state law outlawing the distribution of drug paraphernalia (Washington state law has an exception for individuals seeking to use a sterile needle to prevent the spread of bloodborne diseases).

“Public health departments have a longstanding capacity to take action in the name of public health,” said Nyrop. “The precedent has already been set in WA state.”

Last year, the governor of Indiana declared a public health emergency to allow a county health department to implement a needle exchange to combat rising HIV infection rates despite a state ban on exchanges.

Ultimately, success of any attempt to establish safe consumption sites in Seattle will require the cooperation of local public agencies, including law enforcement and the county prosecutor, the local judicial office that has the authority to prosecute felony drug charges.

“[They would need] an agreement with law enforcement not to arrest people for possession of drugs and an agreement with the prosecutor not the prosecute,” said John Schochet, deputy city attorney at the City Attorney’s office. “That’s the primary issue.

But it appears that local law enforcement and judicial agencies have expressed either support or openness to the concept of safe consumption.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart has said that he wouldn’t arrest drug users going to safe consumption sites, and doubled down on his stance in a conversation with CHS. “I don’t really have any problems with a safe injection site if that’s what’s decided [by local leaders],” he said. “This is a pretty radical change. but it appears to have worked in Vancouver.”

“We have to look at harm reduction rather than the war on drugs which we know has not been a solution,” he added.image2-1-768x576-400x300

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said that while he has concerns over the potential backlash from neighborhoods and residents as well as using up political capital needed for other strategies like increasing the number of regional methadone clinics and boosting drug treatment services, he will not get in the way of attempts to establish safe consumption spaces.

“For the past thirty years, law enforcement and the criminal justice system have been asked to solve this problem [drug use and addiction] and it’s not working. It’s time for the public health experts to come forward and law enforcement should look at ways to support the strategies they identify and not get in the way,” Satterberg told CHS. “I’m willing to let the experts try things to help people.”

“It [safe injection sites] will save lives. There’s no doubt about it,” said Satterberg.

Seattle law enforcement is more hesitant to get on board for the time being, at least publically. Seattle Police Department spokesperson Sean Whitcomb said in a statement provided to CHS that Chief Kathleen O’Toole would “need to hear more about the research before commenting on the efficacy of safe injection.”

Resistance from neighborhoods is another hurdle for the movement for safe consumption sites, mainly in locating any proposed sites. County prosecutor Satterberg pointed to vocal opposition from Renton residents to the proposed construction of a Methadone clinic as cause for concern.

Pullin of the Capitol Hill Community Council is more optimistic. “I don’t think people are or would be dramatically opposed to this,” he said. “I’m not getting the impression that anybody [in Capitol Hill] is opposed to that right now. The issue is so on the forefront of people’s minds.”

Other neighborhoods might prove less welcoming, an obstacle which Pullin says the community council is ready to take on.

“Our charge as the Capitol Hill Community Council is to take the lead with working with neighbors and residents in Capitol Hill and having conversations with folks and community groups across the city and really make the case for it,” said Pullin.

“You don’t need to share the same reasons for supporting this but at least you and I are on the same page in agreeing that what’s happening out on the street is not good.”

Nyrop reminisced on a community meeting on Capitol Hill he attended years ago where a local father became extremely agitated over public drug use at Cal Anderson park. “He just said ‘I don’t want to see it and i don’t want my kids to see it.’”

To Nyrop, the converging interests of drug policy reformers and neighbors fed up with public drug use is one of the keys to making safe consumption sites a reality.

“You don’t need to share the same reasons for supporting this but at least you and I are on the same page in agreeing that what’s happening out on the street is not good.”

During Insite’s presentation before council last month, a lead organizer in the Neighborhood Safety Alliance—a vocal neighborhood group that has protested RV camping, public drug use, and the presence of homelessness in residential neighborhoods like Ballard and Magnolia—expressed during public comment that she would be open to the concept of safe consumption sites.

“We need to convince the public this is a good idea, and by we I mean the government,” said Sheriff Urquhart. “Society will be better off with these safe injection sites and there’s the heavy lifting that needs to be done.”

UPDATE: While Capitol Hill has been identified by proponents as a neighborhood that warrants a safe consumption site, proponents envision several such sites spread across the city in different neighborhoods. “A lot of people agree that scattered sites make sense for Seattle. Instead of a highly concentrated location, we know drug use is happening citywide,” said Sully. She identified Pioneer Square, Belltown, and the University District as some other potential neighborhoods. Nyrop said that somewhere along Aurora in North Seattle would also be a good location. “Parts of downtown, Capitol Hill the University District, Ballard and up Aurora, strike me as logical places to go ahead and put a smaller scale [site] in comparison to Insite, because we don’t have any area of town that’s going to generate the Insite [user] volume,” said Nyrop.

Down at City Hall, council members seem supportive but cautious. A mostly full council—council members Tim Burgess and Bruce Harrell were absent — was receptive to the Insite founders’ presentation.

Since then, however, some council members have been reluctant to jump into the debate. Burgess declined to comment and a staffer in council member Sally Bagshaw’s office told CHS that she is waiting on the official recommendations from the heroin task force before wading into the subject (Bagshaw is the chair of the council’s human services and public health committee. Following the Insite presentation, after noting her belief in a housing-first strategy for homelessness and addiction, Bagshaw said that “there’s going to have be some places where [homeless addicts] can use [drugs].” It was reported that both council members Deborah Juarez and Lorena Gonzalez expressed support for safe injection sites at a Seattle University forum on public health and drug policy last month.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant said that while her office is still doing research and learning from experts in the field, harm reduction strategies like safe consumption sites are both a moral and practical approach. “We need to provide safe consumption sites for people who are dealing with drug addiction issues because the first statement you make by doing that is that you’re not shunning them,” Sawant said. “Harm reduction strategies [also] have a better record of leading to sobriety than programs that require abstinence from the get-go.”

Mayor Ed Murray is deferring to the task force as well. “At the kick-off event of the opiate task force with Executive Dow Constantine, the mayor said he was open to the idea of safe injection sites if the experts believed the sites would save lives or help get people on the road to treatment and recovery,” read a statement sent from the mayor’s office.

Shilo Murphy, founder of the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance needle exchange in the University District, heroin addict, and member of the county task force, said that the task force is giving local leaders a convenient way to both show support for a progressive initiative but also avoid throwing their weight behind the concept and risking political capital. “I think that the task force is giving people political cover to support consumption rooms,” said Murphy. “There’s no guarantee that consumption rooms will be a recommendation of the task force.”

Sully believes Seattle is ripe territory for bringing the first safe consumption sites to the United States, citing broad local support for L.E.A.D, a program which gives police officers the option to funnel low level drug and prostitution offenders to social workers instead of into jail cells.

“We’re well situated for an intervention that is harm reduction based,” said Sully. “We have law enforcement agencies that have done a lot of innovative things that no one else in the country has done [i.e LEAD].”

“We’re in uncharted territory for sure but I think this gets to the reason why if every local elected official stood together on this, the chances of this coming undone are greatly diminished,” said Nyrop. “What is great about LEAD is that no one entity or individual owns [it], and therefore no one entity or individual is responsible for lead if something bad happens. We all mutually benefit or suffer [from backlash]. They can support each other.”

But what about the feds? Promising research and friendly attitudes among local leaders to the harm-reduction philosophy aside, the war on drugs in the United States is ongoing. Possession of heroin (alongside other commonly consumed street drugs like methamphetamine and crack cocaine) is still very much illegal at the federal level. Despite recent efforts from former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to remove mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders, possession of heroin—a schedule one controlled narcotic—can constitute a Class B felony. Distribution of drug paraphernalia is similarly illegal at the federal level, though this past January, congress loosened regulation preventing the federal government from funding syringe exchanges.

Finegood said that the task force is aware of the looming federal preclusion and is weighing that factor in its vetting process.

Sheriff Urquhart said that he doesn’t expect interference from the federal government, citing Washington state’s so far unchallenged legal recreational marijuana system. “I don’t think the federal government is going to weigh in on this at all. They’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

For the time being, Urquhart’s prediction seems right. A spokesperson for the Western Washington District branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the local conversation surrounding safe consumption sites. “We don’t have anything to say at this time.”

There’s still a debate to be had locally over what any pilot safe consumption site would look like. “With all of our elected officials and political leaders, there’s still a lot of work to be done just sort of education on the different models and what safe consumption spaces are,” said Sully.

There’s questions of where the sites should be located (in what neighborhoods, and whether they should be located in or near existing health clinics, syringe exchanges, and other facilities), what organization should operate the sites, and what array of medical and social services — aside from the baseline of providing a space to shoot up and clean equipment, and emergency overdose treatment — will be offered on site.

One sticking point on the task force may prove to be whether to endorse safe injection sites or safe consumption sites — the latter would allow users to smoke as well as inject substances.

“People [on the task force] seem to be quite receptive with reservations and stipulations with the idea of safe injection,” said Nyrop, citing task force meetings that he’s sat in on. “But there seems to be a lot of resistance [to safe consumption sites].”

Finegood cited the state’s indoor smoking ban as an obstacle safe consumption sites would need to get around. “But we don’t want to perversely move people towards injection,” he added.

Proponents of general drug consumption sites argue that the facilities need to allow for all types of drug users to in order to both equitably benefit the broader population of addicts in addition to make a bigger dent in reducing public drug use, a source of complaints for residents and businesses.

“We know that crack cocaine enforcement is one of the driving forces of racial disparity in our criminal justice system,” said Sully. Crack cocaine is primarily smoked and by users who are disproportionately african american. Conversely, heroin users are predominantly white. Additionally, African Americans have historically been significantly overrepresented in Seattle’s drug-related arrests due to law enforcement’s focus on crack cocaine. “Who gets left out [with safe injection sites] is people who are smoking their drugs. That can really exacerbate racial inequities.”

“A lot of what drives community residents and business concerns about this is outdoor visible drug consumption,” said Nyrop. “If you really want to address the public safety issues, move drug use indoors and out of site, whether it’s smoking or injecting.”

Despite the disagreements, those CHS spoke with believe the task force is full-heartedly attempting to adopt a compassionate, public-health approach to regional drug use and addiction.

“Everyone on the task force, and this is something that is very beautiful to see, desperately wants to solve the problem of getting drug users love and support and getting them to a safe and stable place. There’s disagreements on how to do that” said Murphy. “But everyone is there to solve the problem and not to grandstand and build careers.”

The steady embracing of harm-reduction as the new mindset with which to address drug addiction is a welcome change of tune for those who have been through the wringer of addiction and life as an addict amidst the war on drugs. “Most people on the streets, they just want somewhere to lay their head and be safe,” said Turina James, a LEAD program participant, former heroin addict, and member of Vocal-WA at a rally and vigil the group held two weeks ago at City Hall park in downtown. “They have addictions, but most people that are addicted really want help, they just don’t know how to get it. They’re lost souls.”

“If we want less users, let’s stop punishing people and start focusing on people’s trauma,” said Murphy. “Is it the only fix? No. We need more supportive drug treatment, more methadone clinics. But we need them to stop people dying and get them off the street.”

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

51 thoughts on “How Capitol Hill can get a safe consumption site

  1. It looks like the zombie apocalypse around the safe injection site in Vancouver. it is worse than anything I have seen in Seattle. If we go this route as I city, locate it far away from parks and schools.

    • Vancouver, BC, had and has a very concentrated area of injection drug use. InSite did not create that situation; it is sighted where its clients were already location.

      In Seattle, the community is much more spread out, and thus we will do better with multiple safe consumption spaces.

  2. In Seattle Utopia, crack smokers and heroin injectors can get wasted in harmony while our city leaders sing kumbaya

    • There’s no perfect solution. The safe injection sites at least reduce the needles in parks, public gardens, public bathroom trash, and playgrounds.

    • In Vancouver the area around the safe injection site is littered with needles and garbage. The area is a hot spot for drug dealers and users. It was sketchy before the center opened too, but the site has made this a permanently blighted neighborhood. If it saves lives, maybe that is an acceptable price to pay, but the community should not be under no illusion that this will clean up the issue of needles and garbage everywhere.

    • Currently there are needles everywhere so keeping them in a more contained area is a better bet. Employees that clean publicly accessible bathrooms get stuck by needles. Like I said, there isn’t a tidy solution to keep people from doing drugs.

    • It’s naive to think that having an official injection site(s) will truly significantly reduce the amount of needles about town. Most users will continue to use all over the city.

    • Having a safe place to put needles = less needles in unsafe places. Having a safe place to inject = less public use and less chance of spreading infection.The neighborhood in Vancouver where their SIF sits was already, as writer Vancouver put it, sketchy. In fact the owner of the building which houses their SIF was completely supportive of them moving in. He saw it as an improvement over how things were. Drug addiction is not a character flaw and those afflicted with it are not lesser humans. But regardless of whether one chooses to put themselves above and judge, SIF’s make sense for society as a whole.

    • The idea, here, is harm reduction, not harm elimination. Everyone using drugs in a supervised facility that is intended for such is someone who is not using them in a less appropriate place.

    • I think it’s a good idea, I’m just not certain it’ll actually be something that people use—at least enough to make it worth taking up valuable Capitol Hill real estate. The idea seems to depend very much on drug users behaving rationally. “Oh it’s time to use, I’d better get on the bus and make my way to the safe space so I can reduce the harm my addiction causes to society” just doesn’t seem like a believable user/addict thought process. But I’d like to be proven wrong.

      It’s also worth worrying that by allowing a (rightfully) punishment free space for drug users to congregate, there will likely be a natural influx of drug dealers to the areas in and around the site. While I and many others support allowing drug users to carry on their business without fear of substantial criminal consequences, I can’t say the same about drug dealers and the distinct, more menacing, and more serious degree of criminality they often represent.

  3. There should be a maze around the exit so fucked up weirdos have a hard time annoying regular people going about their business

    • Oh, life is so hard for you “regular” people. Heaven forbid you be “annoyed” by your fellow humans struggling with addiction not blessed with the advantages you and all the other “regular” people have. If you hate “weirdos” so much, why the heck did you move to this neighborhood?

  4. Safe injection site? Safe for whom? Quite frankly, I’m not terribly concerned with the safety of those who decide to shoot up – I’d be more concerned about the safety of those who might suffer the unfortunate circumstance of live near or having to transit the area located near such a site.

    • I agree. How about a safe space for the taxpaying, working citizens to get away from the damn junkies? Is heroin still ILLEGAL?
      Perhaps not in Seattle………………………

    • Yeah, right. Again, could care less about the safety of those who willingly made (at some point) the decision to endanger their own health and welfare. As far as safe for others – yes, concentrating the aforementioned bad decision makers all in one place definitely sounds like a recipe for safety and comfort all around.

    • AD, you’d prefer that drug use that could happen in supervised indoor facilities continue to be spread out among various alleys, parks, restrooms, etc.? And you’d prefer for the public to continue to pay the additional cost of emergency room treatment for complications arising from less-safe drug use?

      Your argument against safe consumption spaces is clearly based on your disdain for users of certain drugs, but even arguments of that sort fall apart when one considers the comparative cost (both in terms of the lives you disregard and in monetary cost to the general public) of leaving things as they are.

  5. Parents in playgrounds – you are entitled to your opinion. Drug abuse is a character flaw and those who are stealing, strung out, shooting up, sharing Hepatitis and HIV and destroying their own lives and that of their family, community and neighbors – ARE by their actions behaving like lesser life forms than those who contribute. It is in the end a complex goal-directed behavior that can with hard work and help, be changed. If you disagree with their relative human worth, publish your address and agree to have this ‘safe site’ in your front yard.

    • One thing our ruling class seems to ignore is that heroin use is not a victimless activity. If funds drug dealers in Seattle and drug violence in Mexico. Also users are responsible for a lot of thefts in Seattle.

    • well-said! cannot agree more. i’m really sick of Seattle letting these losers off the hook and not making them be responsible for the decisions they are making with their lives.

    • DD, the choice is not between your front yard and not at all. It is between all of the less-appropriate locations at which drug use now occurs (e.g., alleys, parks, and public restrooms) and clean facilities, out of your view, with medical supervision.

  6. It’s absurd to believe that my hard earned tax dollars are going to be spent to give the losers of this community – who, by the way, have put themselves into this situation (drug addiction) – a comfy place to shoot up. This is just another social service that will ultimately take funds away from the core needs of the community – education, transportation, etc. I hate to sound cold and indifferent, but if someone is stupid enough to waste away their life and talent to shoot up, then I’m not one to cry when they over do it and die. It’s just one less addict to clean up after and/or walk around, or to support with public (my) funds. If a generous foundation or non-profit group wants to take on developing and maintaining these spaces, great. Just don’t use public funds to condone or make this behavior more comfortable.

    • I agree. Fully fund education first, and then reward drug users with a recreational property. Through education it may be possible to actually persuade kids not to shoot up.

    • No kidding! I wonder all the time in Seattle how many of those of us who pay for all this actually agree with how the money is spent. We have kids who want to be in band who can’t because the schools can’t afford instruments for them, because we have to coddle these weak, selfish idiots.

      PS There was an article in the New York Times a couple days ago about homeless families staying at Mary’s Place. The vast majority upped sticks and moved here, kids in tow, in the middle of the school year, with no savings, no job prospects, and are now being up up at our expense, I have to assume indefinitely. WTH? Our public officials use very sketchy “data” to tell us most of our homeless, drug addicts, etc. (aka net losses to civilized society) are from here, when they clearly are not.

      We cannot continue to cheat our own children and productive citizens to provide for the rest of the world’s losers.

    • SSA: Your, my, and everyone else’s hard-earned tax dollars are being spent now on medical care for people with problems resulting from less-safe drug use. Who do you think pays when someone with no money goes to the ER at Harborview for treatment of an infection or Hepatitis C resulting from less-safe drug use? The status quo is costing us money.

      Vancouver’s InSite saves $4 for every $1 spent on their safe injection site. Safe consumption spaces are not only humane, but also make financial sense.

    • “Sick of these losers” I went and read the NYT article you reference. Nothing in it says anything about anyone “upped sticks” to move here without a plan, or because staying at Mary’s Place sounded good, as you seem to imply. In fact, for the one homeless person mentioned in the article, they don’t say anything about how she became homeless. And she’s a medical assistant! Thanks for the misinformation though. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/us/with-seattle-shelter-effort-amazon-shows-glimmers-of-a-good-neighbor.html

  7. At least 2 baristas have been pricked by needles in trash bags at local Starbucks. This is a broader public health and safety issue than some of you seem to think. People are gonna use, no matter what we do. Providing them with a safe, autonomous site is in everybody’s interest. Insite also serves as a connection to social and health services. For some of them, it’s the only bridge they have. It isn’t a panacea, obviously, but it’s humane and safer than what we have now.

  8. I’m all for it if it benefits the safety of addicts. I do have my doubts that it will decrease the amount of needles thrown around town though.
    I find it hard to envision a junkie saying “let’s hike up to Capitol Hill and use our drugs responsibly.”

  9. So many NIMBY-ish, reactionary comments from a supposedly liberal, compassionate, open-minded neighborhood! Did any of you actually read the article? Middle-class entitlement is alive and well here in the land of Bernie bumper stickers.

  10. I hung out with a heck of a lot of heroin addicts in my youth, and one thing common to all was shooting up as soon as they could and wherever they wanted to. I don’t see addicts getting on the bus or actually traveling anywhere to get to a safe site. I think they’ll continue to shoot up in the nearest possible loo.

    • You are making an argument for establishing multiple safe consumption spaces throughout the region, which is precisely that for which some people behind this campaign are calling.

    • How could we be so foolish, of course your anecdote and opinion is far better informed than all the evidence found by addiction and public health experts.

  11. Former Harborview RN here, here’s my 2 cents: As Phil has stated above, taxpayers already pay for overdoses, to the tune of probable $3-4 grand for every paramedic pick up and drop off to the ED, plus at least $20-60 g for an inpatient admit and abscess treatment.
    So unless you are some libertarian tech company owner and feel that we shouldn’t even treat the addicts medically, the safe site will save taxpayers money, as evidenced by the research on safe sites in Canada and Europe.
    I’m living in San Francisco right now and Seattle’s open heroin and meth use problem can’t even compare, we should make an investment in these people so Seattle doesn’t get like it is here.
    Like the Sheriff says, get out of the way and let the experts do their thing, we’ll be glad in the end.
    Finally for all the hate and hurt from some of these commenters, when its close friends and family members who become addicts (and statistically it will probably happen to everyone eventually) it really sucks. Opiate addiction actually causes brain damage in the addicts, but new therapies are emerging. Stigmatizing the addicts and driving them into the shadows will not help anyone, cause its your bike, they’ll steal next.

  12. The amount of ignorance and misinformation in this thread surrounding harm reduction is astonishing.

  13. I can’t help to wonder what percent of the YIMBY crowd is just passing through Capitol Hill for a couple years in there 20s on their way to a house in Shoreline to a kid-friendly neighborhood with tree-lined streets away from all the challenges of the city. How many have seen the chronic blight in the blocks surrounding such a facility? Vancouver has written off the area around Insite. Concentrating use makes the rest of the city a nicer place to live, but it makes that district hell on earth. It is easy to be self-righteous when you don’t have roots planted in the soil of Capitol Hill. Those of us that are here for the long-term have more questions about where and how this gets implemented. I get that the program has societal and even economic benefits for the city as a whole, but it will also have substantial costs for those that live, work, and own-businesses within a few blocks of wherever it is located. The city and the YIMBYS need to acknowledge the very real localized impacts of creating a permanent, city-sanctioned, site for heroine and crack use. It is rationale for NIMBYs to be alarmed at turning an ephemeral hotspot for drug use/dealing/theft into a brick and mortar hotspot. Locate it as far away from schools, parks, homes, and businesses as possible and don’t mislead people by framing a drop in crime in one of Canada’s poorest neighborhoods from horrible to really bad as an example of how Capitol Hill would benefit from saying yes to this in our backyard.

  14. Phil – The city should shut them down and force people into treatment and shelters. Camping in the park and shooting up in the park bathroom should not be an option. I support having shelters and housing options that allow people to use and get their lives stabilized. If chronic offenders don’t enter a treatment program or go to a shelter, however, they can go to court or get on a bus out of town. All these European cities with safe injection sites also enforce the law. People are arrested for shooting up heroin in a park bathroom or setting up a tent on the sidewalk in European cities (same thing in Salt Lake City which is always held up as a housing first model). Then they are routed into treatment, mental health consulting, housing or prison. The kind of crap that goes on in Cal Anderson Park is not tolerated, period. In the US and Vancouver, we fail on both fronts. We can’t seem to take care of people by providing an adequate social safety net, and we also can’t seem to enforce the laws that are essential for having livable cities and a functioning society. Seattle tries to make up for the nation’s failings by offers a carrot, but no stick. As a result we and other well meaning but misguided liberal west coast cities import homeless junkies from the rest of the country at great expense financially and to our quality of life. Until we find the political will to enforce the law, I don’t think Seattle should be offering any more carrots that are not available in other parts of the country.

    • “The city should […] force people into treatment and shelters.”

      They will not, because that would be unconstitutional.

      “Camping in the park and shooting up in the park bathroom should not be an option.”

      Good luck patrolling restroom stalls.

  15. By “force” I mean closing options and providing others. Shoot up on the playground equipment and living in the park is no longer an option. If you are are caught doing so, your options are as follows:

    Option A: (preferred option) Go to a shelter and meet with a drug councilor on a mandated schedule. Hopefully this leads to entering a treatment program.
    Option B: Be charged with a crime for all laws that have been broken.

  16. In regards to your second snarky comment, I would suggest the city pays for a bathroom attendant to keep the bathrooms safe and clean for everyone. This is very common in most cities around the world. As a result safe, clean bathroom are available when you need one (i.e., subway stations, parks). The US has third world public bathrooms. It is a disgrace.

    • Your proposal would cost the public (lots–take $15 times the count of public restrooms times hours of operation), and it would push drug users without homes in which to conceal their use elsewhere.

  17. Addicts may use injection sites. Most won’t. It’ll still be alleyway, parking garage, stairwell, bathroom, behind a bush, inside an apartment and home. Addicts aren’t going to buy or barter their drug of choice then hop on a bus or bum a ride to an injection site. They are going to do it first opportunity they get.

    Make Narcan available everywhere. Already have needle exchanges. Of course the whole sex for drug and all the secondary health issues from drug usage are things safe injection sites can’t fix. Plus all the people who are victims of crime, got shot mistakenly during a drug deal gone bad, attacked when addicts get paranoid or become psychotic during a drug induced episode. Those people are just collateral damage.

    What’s really needed is better access to methadone and buprenorphine.

    The drug trade is vicious, deadly, but more importantly very, very, very lucrative. Hence the incentive to keep it going. Even better if tax dollars can start paying the people to operate these sites all over the city so they can give themselves a pat on the back for being the good public health servants. What heroes!

    • “Addicts may use injection sites. Most won’t.”

      We can reduce the harm associated with the drug use of those who will. And police who find others using elsewhere will have someplace to send them that is better for all of us than jail.

      “Addicts aren’t going to buy or barter their drug of choice then hop on a bus or bum a ride to an injection site.”

      If that is true, then we should locate the safe consumption sites near them.

      “Make Narcan available everywhere.”

      We’re getting there. Seattle Police Department have a pilot program with bicycle officers carrying it. As a result, this week was their third overdose reversal in as many weeks.

      “Already have needle exchanges.”

      That’s a great example of a harm reduction tactic that took a fight to implement, and that has turned out to be well worth the effort. Seattle can and should continue to lead.

      It’s a good thing that addicts will take a bus or bum a ride instead of borrowing a needle, huh?

      “What’s really needed is better access to methadone and buprenorphine.”

      Different treatment programs work for different people. Better access to medically-assisted treatment would help some of them, for sure. I hope we can keep people who aren’t ready to quit alive in case someday they are.

      “The drug trade is vicious, deadly, but more importantly very, very, very lucrative.”

      The vicious and deadly parts are true mostly of the black market drug trade. Ending drug prohibition would solve that problem.

  18. People who are enamored of Vancouver’s safe injection site need to spend a week living within those few blocks. It’s a grim, painful and sad place. Sure you can get a cheap blow job and anything else you want. But it comes at a huge soul crushing cost because the price of human meat is very cheaply held. There’s desperation which just weeps everywhere which will make Trainspotting movie fans very happy. Those living it and see the things which people do to themselves and to others for a fix see it straight. It’s just plain shit.

    That’s the price of failure and giving in.

    • Look a bit deeper and you’ll find that Vancouver’s east side was a grim, painful, and sad place before InSite showed up. And more people died. And more tax dollars were wasted.

    • Cigarettes and alcohol aren’t free, either. But they are regulated, and when disputes arise, the courts are available to resolve those disputes.

      We did it recently with cannabis, and we should do it soon with other drugs.