Fencing and no trespassing signs were installed on the path Friday morning. (Image: Alex Garland)
A sleeping bag and needles found near the path by members of the Lowell PTA. (Image: Susanna Mak)
Parents of Lowell Elementary students say a wooded public pathway that cuts through the Capitol Hill school grounds has long been used as a place for people to camp and inject drugs.
After months of parents calling on Seattle Public Schools to address the issue, the Seattle Department of Transportation fenced off the short trail on Friday. Crews also cleared trees and shrubs along the path at E Roy between Federal and 11th.
“From our point of view, the right of way must be permanently closed,” said
Suzanna Mak of the Lowell Elementary PTA.
According to Mak, used needles, condoms, and human waste are a common site on the path that winds between the school building and its playground. While the PTA has documented needles found on the site as early as this week, one neighbor tells CHS there has not been an encampment in the area for several years. Seattle Public School students return to school September 7th.
UPDATE: SDOT spokesperson Norm Mah said that after the city received complaints from the school district and PTA, SDOT decided to temporarily close off the path due to the “ongoing public health hazard” posed by discarded needles.
Once the temporary closure is in place, we will assess the situation and explore a number of long-term remedies with the objective of ensuring the safety needs of the elementary school while preserving the mobility needs of the neighborhood. We will work with all essential stakeholders on the longer-term resolution.
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks with SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Mayor Ed Murray. (Image: Kaylee Osowski)
Seattle Police got the call on Sunday — a 21-year-old woman was on the ground and unresponsive at 9th and Pine. According to police reports she was extremely pale, had a faint heartbeat and did not appear to be breathing. Hypodermic needles laid next to her.
The officers gave her nasal naloxone, a heroin overdose antidote. Four minutes later, the woman was speaking in full sentences with medics and transported to Harborview Medical Center.
It was SPD’s 10th overdose save since it began equipping 60 bike cops with naloxone in March. It also came just ahead of the U.S. Surgeon General’s visit to Seattle to discuss the opioid epidemic.
“We have officers who are taking initiative to do something that’s not necessarily in their job description, but which is part of their overall mission, which is to save and protect lives,” said Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy while visiting SPD’s downtown headquarters. He called the program creative and commended the police department.
According to a July report from the UW Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, King County saw 132 heroin overdose deaths in 2015. Treatment admissions for heroin peaked, surpassing alcohol for the first time. Opioid abuse now kills more Americans than car accidents, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. It’s difficult to pin down just how many happen on Capitol Hill, but experts say the neighborhood is an overdose hotspot. The arrival of downtown homeless outreach workers to Capitol Hill was prompted in part by the rise of drug users living on the street. Continue reading