As Seattle officials spar over how to pay for safe consumption sites and where to put them, you might consider a new tool to add to your Capitol Hill safety and first aid kit. In late October, drugstore chain Walgreens announced it would begin stocking naloxone in its stores across the country. CHS bought a kit to find out what’s inside — and, hopefully, be ready to help.
Sold under the Narcan brand, the nasal spray “antidote” can reverse the effects of opioid including heroin and prescription painkillers. For $82, the kit we purchased comes with a syringe and an attachment for the nasal spray. Each kit is good for two applications. You’ll find directions inside and online training videos like this one, below, from Kelley-Ross Pharmacies, which also stocks the kits. Meanwhile, free kits are available via King County Health and organizations like The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance.
Nasal naloxone kits are now standard issue for Seattle bike cops after a pilot program proved their efficacy.
Officials continue to work toward opening safe consumption sites in King County and Seattle. Opioid and heroin abuse, meanwhile, remains a massive public safety issue for the city.
Transitioning the emphasis from arrest to treatment and services when it comes to addiction, mental illness, and homelessness is slowly changing policing and the city’s connections to its streets in downtown and parts of Capitol Hill. The hopes to expand Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion to the rest of the East Precinct now hinges on the process underway at City Hall to shape Seattle’s 2018 budget.
Tracy Gillespie, who handles LEAD’s East Precinct referrals, and LEAD’s operations advisor Najja Morris said the program’s biggest hurdle is funding, year after year. The program needs more case managers. Their hope is to expand throughout Seattle by 2019, which Morris said would require around $4 million. Right now, LEAD is lined up for $1 million out of the city budget.
The program has been working in Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct — Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Little Saigon — since last year. But it’s been Capitol Hill centric because the program rolled out to SPD’s bicycle officers, who focus on the Hill, and not patrol officers in cars. Now, LEAD is working toward CD and Saigon expansion.
“It’s been really great to see a different demographic come into the program,” said Gillespie. “They tend to be younger, but a lot of them have aged out of the teen and young adult services, so they’re in between being a young person and being an adult.”
But there is uncertainty about how much funding will be available for the initiative in coming years. Continue reading
It’s a tragedy that heroin addiction destroys so many lives in Seattle. Discarded needles add another sad layer to the problem. A push from Seattle Public Utilities started in February 2016 can’t help with the addiction but officials say it is helping make streets safer by collecting some 2,000 used needles a month:
In its first 15 months of operation, Seattle Public Utility’s pioneering Sharps Collection Pilot Program has collected and safely disposed of 32,012 hypodermic syringes, improving both the safety and cleanliness of the city’s neighborhoods. Since February, people disposed of 26,647 syringes in nine SPU sharps disposal boxes around Seattle. (See attached map.) Another 5,365 needles have been removed from public property since the program began, in August 2016, in response to 1,113 complaints. Complaints were filed online, with the City’s Find It, Fix It app, or phoned in to (206) 684-7587.
Officials say the one-of-a-kind Seattle program is part of a group of test initiatives related to clean streets and safety. Continue reading
An Insite “supervised injection site” in Vancouver, B.C. (Image: Seattle.gov)
At the end of January, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced they were moving forward with all of the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force recommendations to battle the heroin epidemic at a local level, including launching two safe consumption sites.
Officials are currently gathering data and information and meeting with communities to determine where the two sites, one slated for Seattle and one for greater King County, should be located.
Brad Finegood, assistant division director at King County Behavioral Health and Recovery Division, told CHS the process is in its “infancy.”
“There are so many things to undertake in an effort like this where A) there’s none in the U.S. and B) there’s so many community groups to discuss it with,” Finegood said. Continue reading
Police say there were no signs of foul play after a body was found in the Colonnade Park beneath I-5 on the slope between Capitol Hill and Eastlake Wednesday morning.
According to the Seattle Police Department, a death investigation was conducted after the body was found next to the park’s off-leash dog area but there was no immediate evidence of a crime.
The King County Medical Examiner’s office will investigate the cause of death and identification of the person found.
The area is well known for campers and drug use and police are often called to the park.
Last week, Seattle’s new homeless Navigation Team begins a clean-up effort with a sweep of I-5 camps below Capitol Hill and around the area of the park.
Mayor Ed Murray announced during his State of the City speech earlier this week a proposal for a new $55 million levy to help the city pay for its homelessness services. The city’s emergency operations center has also been opened to help direct resources needed to remove camps and assist homeless people with finding shelter.
King County officials and task force members, meanwhile, are working with the community to identify potential locations — one in Seattle, and one outside the city — for new safe consumption sites to stem the tide of overdoses that would give drug users a place to use that is supervised and can provide resources like clean needles.
It comes nowhere close to the costs of addiction but big drug companies are funding a small program in King County to put “secure medicine return” boxes in locations where it easier for residents to get rid of unwanted pharmaceuticals.
Officials were on hand last week at the Broadway Market QFC to announce the program and show off one of the new drop box locations.
“Working on secure medicine return, I’ve truly seen the community spirit here in King County. These drop boxes are run by volunteers. All of the locations have volunteered to have drop boxes. And the program is supported and operated by drug producers whose medications are sold in King County,” King County Council member Joe McDermott said Thursday morning with the soft rock of the QFC sound system and beeps from the nearby checkouts in the background. “I look forward to the success of this producer supported program.”
A map of medicine return boxes around the county is below. You can also find drop sites at the Country Doctor clinic on 19th Ave E and at the Capitol Hill Group Health campus.
There have been clean-ups of the area beneath Interstate 5 between Capitol Hill and Eastlake before. But officials hope this week’s sweeps can be part of a longer term change of what an East Precinct officer once described as a “no man’s land populated by the homeless, mental cases.”
In the first official deployment of the city’s new Navigation Team including outreach workers and police, the areas along and under I-5 popular with campers in the city’s core are being cleared out.
Here is what KOMO saw during the start of the clean-up in a half-mile stretch near the Colonnade Park between lower Capitol Hill and Eastlake:
Police and safety vest clad workers started pulling apart a bunker underneath I-5 early Tuesday. Mixed in with the bottles filled with urine were piles of blankets, rats and a smattering of personal belongings. Continue reading
Budget season is in full swing at City Hall and City Council members have begun their dive in what will likely be this year’s most contentious topic: homeless services. On Wednesday, the City Council discussed amendments to Mayor Ed Murray’s budget for the Human Services Department.
The $157 million budget represents a 10.3% increase over the department’s 2016 spending with $56 million in homelessness-related programs moved under a new Division of Homeless Strategy and Investment. Within that budget is $476,000 for four full-time employees to get the department rolling on implementing the mayor’s recently unveiled homelessness response plan Pathway’s Home.
That was the first bump in the road at City Council. District 3 representative Kshama Sawant said she opposed expenditure as the council has not fully approved Murray’s plan and said the funds should be spent on services directly. “I find this too rushed,” she said. Continue reading
“Ghost” behind QFC had just purchased and cooked up $10 worth of heroin (Image: Tim Durkan with permission to CHS)
Momentum is building in Seattle to open a space where heroin addicts can use their own drugs under medical supervision at so-called safe consumption sites.
A task force of opiate addiction experts, public officials, law enforcement officials, and former addicts released a 99-page report Thursday outlining eight recommendations on what the city and region should do to tackle its heroin epidemic. Among those is opening two “community health engagement locations” — one in Seattle and one in greater King County.
“I believe we should have these sites,” said Mayor Ed Murray, who will be visiting safe consumption sites in Vancouver, BC this week. There is currently no operating safe consumption site in the U.S. and task force members acknowledged there would be legal challenges to overcome. Continue reading
The large cedar tree where LeBaron’s son’s body was found (Image: Jonathan LeBaron with permission to CHS)
Jon LeBaron with his sister. (Image courtesy of Jonathan LeBaron)
A search through Capitol Hill’s Interlaken Park to the spot where his son’s body was discovered in the greenbelt’s wooded ravines led Jonathan LeBaron to another lost life. LeBaron found the human remains CHS reported on over the Labor Day holiday weekend while walking to a tall cedar tree inside the park, the site where the body of his son Jon LeBaron had been found by two people a few days earlier. Authorities are investigating not one set of human remains found in Interlaken in the weeks around Labor Day, but two.
“I think that place should be combed,” LeBaron tells CHS. “It was a needle in a haystack where I found that body.”
The discoveries underscore the epidemic of addiction and homelessness that continues to grow on Capitol Hill and the region despite the city’s renewed attempts to address it. They also illustrate a dilemma with Interlaken Park, loved for its wild terrain filled with tall trees and steep ravines — the same terrain that makes it an ideal place to camp undetected and nearly impossible for those overdosing or in need of help to be found. Continue reading