With $1.3 million allocated in the 2018 budget for studying and building a safe consumption site in Seattle, staff at city and county agencies are gearing up to draft the “feasibility study,” a report that will address location and costs for the site, who will pay for it, and how it will be run.
As noted in the $1.3 million budget amendment sponsored by Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson (District 4–Wallingford, University District), the report “must include a full cost estimate and a location for siting that HSD deems viable, and a scope and timeline of necessary capital improvements to create the Safe Consumption Site.”
Additionally, the budget amendment stated that the facility will provide, among other things: “supplies and space for consuming illicit drugs via injection, smoking or sublimation, and nasal inhalation”, overdose treatment (e.g. Naloxone), syringe exchange services, basic medical treatment, wraparound social services and case management, and sexual health supplies.
Prior to the tumultuous 2018 city budget talks, Johnson said that he thought Capitol Hill was an ideal candidate for building a safe consumption site due to the positive community response to the concept and high rate of overdose in the neighborhood.
“We are open to ideas about the location but Capitol Hill does seem to be the most logical,” Johnson told CHS. “[But] we’re going to have logistical challenges any where we go just because of the cost of real estate in the city right now,” he added.
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Council member Kshama Sawant (District 3–Capitol Hill) did not respond to requests for comment on the potential siting of a safe consumption site in her district.
Johnson also said that he thinks that the facility should operate on government-owned property, so as to complicate potential efforts by the Federal Government to intervene. Last February, Republican state Senator Mark Miloscia wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling on him to squash the push for safe consumption sites in Seattle.
Seattle’s proposed safe consumption site would be the first of its kind in the United States.
Safe consumption sites are facilities where drug addicts can consume substances indoors with trained medical staff on hand to prevent fatal overdoses, reduce the spread of disease from dirty needles, and connect addicts to drug treatment services. Last year, the King County Heroin and Prescription Opioid Addiction Task Force endorsed implementing such facilities in King County to address regional opioid addiction. While a controversial novelty in the United States, sanctioned safe consumption sites have operated in Europe for the past several decades.
According to Meg Olberding, spokesperson for the Seattle Human Services Department, staff from human services, the Finance and Administrative Services Department, and King County Public Health will begin coordinating to draft the feasibility study within the next few weeks.
Oberding described the study as more of a “report,” which will address questions such as theoretical capital and operating costs for the site and the shared responsibilities between Seattle and King County in terms of costs, administration and oversight.
“We will begin on that immediately with Human Services Department staff, Finance and Administrative Services and staff at King County as it is due to Council by the end of February,” Oberding wrote in an email.
Both Oberding and a spokesperson for King County Public Health say more details on their report will be available once the involved agencies begin working on it.