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‘We really need to have a timeline here’ — Seattle shifting safe consumption plan to mobile ‘community health engagement’ van

Thursday afternoon just after 1 PM, Seattle Fire medics fought to revive a 29-year-old found unconscious after overdosing inside his 10th Ave E apartment. He was taken to Harborview in critical condition. Another rescue took place just blocks away Sunday as medics revived an overdose victim on the Bobby Morris playfield. Wednesday morning, Seattle Fire could not revive a man in his 20s who died of an overdose at a homeless camp in the greenbelt below Capitol Hill’s Louisa Boren Lookout.

Thursday at City Hall, a Seattle City Council committee heard an update from the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force on its progress to form a plan to help stem the tide of overdoses with a safe consumption site in the city where people addicted to drugs can come and shoot up — and not be alone. But the years-long process is still not close to finding a site for such a facility, officials said Thursday. The new plan, if the city wants to get something in place anytime soon, officials say, is to buy and deploy a “community health engagement” van that would be deployed daily to a dedicated site but would not roam the city.

“When we began to look at all the various options we realized the city doesn’t own a lot of buildings and the buildings we do own often times community centers or park related centers,” task force member Jeff Sakuma, Mayor’s Office said Thursday. “And obviously those would not be appropriate types of building sites.”

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Sakuma said purchasing the van, outfitting it as a safe consumption facility, and performing outreach in the community where it would eventually be parked would cost around $1.8 million. That money has been budgeted. The $1.5 to $2.5 million per year to operate it and staff the program has not.

Cost is also not the only driver behind the van plan. Sakuma said there is concern the federal government could move to seize any property where a safe consumption site is permanently located. The mobile solution would allow the program to separate locations for reception and health services areas as well as a waiting area “so people don’t queue outside” from the facility where drugs are being consumed. “There is a risk of having somebody else’s property seized,” Sakuma said.

Sakuma said the mobile van solution “would be there mostly for individuals who are currently using in public settings” and would require a community partner with property in an area of the city where drug use and overdoses are centered.

“When we think about appropriate locations it’s not going to be in District 5, perhaps, it’s going to be in an area where we’re already seeing high rates of overdose and death,” Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights Committee chair Teresa Mosqueda said Thursday.

The task force plan would not be fore the van to roam but to be deployed daily to the same location in the city. The location would have a separate “reception and waiting area” where other resources could be offered including alternatives to illegal drugs. The spending plan also includes “security and neighborhood mitigation services.”

If there is a community partner with property that fits the bill, Capitol Hill continues to be brought up as a possible home for the site. “Capitol Hill is a neighborhood where we’ve actually heard quite a bit from the neighborhood and from the Capitol Hill Community Council just about how invested they are in this and how much they’d really love to host a safe consumption space in their neighborhood,” Patricia Sully with the Public Defenders Association said during public comment Thursday.

Committee chair Mosqueda Thursday expressed support for the mobile van plan in an effort to get something useful in place as soon as possible. But she was troubled by other plan elements — like a timeline shown during the session with no dates. “We really need to have a timeline here,” Mosqueda said, asking for community engagement to be underway by August with the area where the site will eventually be located and for a deal to be in place for the site by November.

Sakuma and the mayor’s office are also pointing at other efforts to increase resources in the county including a new detox facility on Beacon Hill and 40 new locations where buprenorphine, an opioid used to treat opioid addiction, is available.

Thursday, the council committee also heard details on a report on King County overdose death trends that showed the continued increase of deaths involving drugs and alcohol driven by spiking rates of meth and heroin overdoses. The report overview is below.



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42 thoughts on “‘We really need to have a timeline here’ — Seattle shifting safe consumption plan to mobile ‘community health engagement’ van

  1. “If there is a community partner with property that fits the bill, Capitol Hill continues to be brought up as a possible home for the site. ‘Capitol Hill is a neighborhood where we’ve actually heard quite a bit from the neighborhood and from the Capitol Hill Community Council just about how invested they are in this and how much they’d really love to host a safe consumption space in their neighborhood,’ Patricia Sully with the Public Defenders Association said during public comment Thursday.”

    who the hell is out there saying we want a safe consumption space in Capitol Hill? NO we DON’T! Be vocal, people! If they’re going to create a legal heroin epicenter in Seattle it should be in some shitty run-down area of SODO, not residential neighborhoods full of families!

  2. Also, who is this Patricia Sully person? She has 400 followers on Twitter and seems to be obsessed with legalizing narcotics. The “Public Defender Association” she’s a part of seems to basically be a lobbying group for safe injection/consumption sites. See

    Why does she get to speak for all of Capitol Hill? Folks, did any of you know about this public comment? Why weren’t you there to represent our neighborhood instead of letting a safe injection site advocate speak for what we want?

    • From Public Defender Association’s staff page:

      Patricia Sully is the Policy and Legal Services Director at the Public Defender Association. She joined PDA in 2014, where she works on a number of public policy issues and most recently the campaign to bring Supervised Consumption Spaces to the Seattle/King County area. She also provides legal support to individuals engaged in direct action and coordinates VOCAL-WA. Prior to joining PDA, Patricia served as the Assistant Director of the Access to Justice Institute at Seattle University School of Law and co-taught Law and Social Movements as an adjunct professor.
      Patricia has been an active advocate for social change for over a decade as an activist, organizer, and lawyer. She started her career as a as a community organizer in Grand Rapids, MI, where she worked for a free neighborhood health clinic and neighborhood association. She went on to serve in the Peace Corps from 2006-2008 working on local capacity building in the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission HIV/AIDS program in Botswana. As a law student, she worked as a judicial extern for the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and was an active member of Street Youth Legal Advocates Washington (SYLAW). Shortly after passing the New York Bar Exam in 2011, she moved into a tent with Occupy Seattle, where she helped coordinate the legal team. When she is not in the office, she can often be found protesting in the streets.
      Patricia received her B.A. from Calvin College in 2004 and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Seattle University School of Law in 2011.

    • I highly doubt that the lutheran church which owns that church would be willing to let their building be used for that purpose. It is also right by residential apartments with children and families.

      • Just about anywhere in Capitol Hill is going to be right by residential apartments with children and families. For the five or six people who actually want this here, I really don’t think that’s a factor.

      • Yes, and anywhere in Capitol Hill there are drug addicts using and dying and dropping needles on the streets near those residential apartments with children and families, with no help being offered.

        But near the safe consumption site, they will have an indoor place where someone cares and can connect them with medical and treatment services.

      • Or they could put this thing in SODO next to the RV camp and have none of any of that near children or families.

      • Reason dictates that illegal drug injection site locations follow approximately the same rules imposed on pot shop locations. “Business” is not within one thousand feet of the following entities: school, Playground, Recreation center, Child care center, Public park, Public transit center, Library …

    • In your second comment, Jonathan, you address people dying without help and dropping used needles on the street.

      Those are big problems.

      And you suggest that this site will somehow address those and connect people with treatment. Unfortunately, it won’t. There’s no treatment to connect people to, and this would divert $2 million a year in operating dollars that could be used for treatment. It will do nothing to stop people from dying or dropping needles on the street and may even make the needle dropping problem worse as the City Council is talking about legalizing drugs in the immediate vicinity.

      This approach seems to work in Europe where they have access to treatment on demand and many other components that are closely tied in. And they enforce the law so the community isn’t damaged. It doesn’t work at all in Vancouver where the death rate is soaring and the surrounding neighborhood has been trashed. Which model do you think we’ll be following?

      • MO is mistaken. Treatment for substance use disorder is, in fact, available. Treatment is of little to no use to people who are not ready for it, and if they die alone in an alley before they’re ready, they will never have the opportunity to get better. With about 100 SCSs around the world, there have been zero overdose deaths in them. City Council are not talking about legalizing drugs in the immediate vicinity of an SCS. Vancouver’s geographic distribution of public drug use was and is entirely different than that of Seattle, and I’ve yet to hear area SCS proponents suggest patterning the pilot program after Vancouver’s first SCS.

      • It has been dogma in the addiction treatment community for years that treatment is not effective until he/she is “ready.” I question this dogma. If there was a way to force addicts into treatment (unlikely), I believe that at least some of them would be on a path to recovery. You can wait a very long time, if ever, for someone to be “ready.”

  3. “Sakuma said there is concern the federal government could move to seize any property where a safe consumption site is permanently located.”
    Because it is illegal to sell/buy heroin! Offer treatment but enough with the “safe space” to shoot-up. Allowing people to slowly kill themselves is not humane.

    • Safe consumption spaces are not places to buy or sell heroin.

      Leaving people with substance use disorder with the status quo–drug use in alleys, parks, and restrooms–is not humane.

      • If they have heroin, they must have bought it, so by offering them a safe consumption space, we are saying it is OK to buy heroin. But regardless, the law is actually against possession of heroin, not just sale.

        Aiding them in killing themselves until their brains are destroyed and they no longer know where the treatment center is, and die on the street alone, is not humane. You’re simply delaying their death.

        The humane thing to do is to force them into treatment programs, thus maximizing the chance that we can take them off their dependency and save their life while minimizing societal cost. By shocking coincidence, this is also the existing state law!

    • Notice how “partying with drugs” and “getting high” is now defined as “substance use disorder”

      You don’t have to fight for your right to party anymore. Partying with meth, crack and heroin has become some sort of twisted “right” in radical Seattle/SF/Burner circles. But, of course, once getting high becomes a problem (which it always does) then the partier becomes another victim in their eyes. Always victims of society – not themselves or their “friends”

  4. I have no clue who this Patricia Yahoo is however since she seems to think “how much they’d really love to host a safe consumption space in their neighborhood,” Sounds like she or Teresa Mosqueda wouldn’t mind this van being parked in front of their home. Hell bring in Sawant too!!! If these fools support them lets see them go “all in” on it. Double down on the promise to support these junkies…Call me cold hearted I just don’t like want this shit being paid for with my hard earned money.

    • Find out when the next public comment is, show up and let your voice cancel out hers.

      Right now the problem is that only activists like Patricia show up to these things so that’s the only voice the council hears.

      • And that’s a feature and not a bug. The Council meetings are often held mid-day, and on pretty short notice. The “experts” called to testify are selected for their ideological reliability. In Sawant’s case, the chambers are packed with her minions, who shout down anyone not toeing the Sawant line.

        The SCC looks, talks and acts like an authoritarian junta. Maybe it is an authoritarian junta.

  5. This is insanity. People who are trapped in addiction need support to STOP using. Encouraging them to keep using will ruin their health (endocarditis, other infections, possible death). How about demanding expanded access to treatment instead?!? Why is that not the headline to this article?

    • Seatttle’s and King County’s task force on the opiate overdose epidemic recommended a suite of actions, including both a supervised consumption space pilot program and increased access to substance abuse disorder treatment programs.

      Helping people with substance use disorder stay alive until they can get better is not the same as encouraging them to continue using those substances.

      • Did that task force say to put it in a residential neighborhood? Wherever this thing is built (which seems inevitable at this point) is going to be like dropping a nuclear bomb on the neighborhood. Pray tell me, where do the heroin junkies go after we help them shoot up? They go right back outside to wander the streets, screaming and harassing people, completely out of their minds. All the heroin dealers will go nearby. That’s what happened in Vancouver. Why on earth would we want that in Cap Hill. Put that shit in some empty warehouse lot in SODO.

        I guess I should ask, why do YOU, Phil Mocek, want it in Cap Hill, since you are always the lone wolf in these comments sections advocating for this idea. “We”, the rest of your neighbors, clearly do not. If you took a poll of Capitol Hill on this highly-impactful issue you would find that.

        Also, that King County task force recommended treatment AND prevention. This idea only works is you also do prevention. But our city council has instead essentially legalized heroin.

      • Everyone agrees that we need increased access to treatment programs in order to make a dent in the opiate epidemic. That’s a given, but how exactly will it be accomplished? Is there the political will to increase funding for this purpose? If so, where will the money come from? Would a safe consumption site actually be staffed properly (with addiction specialists) to facilitate placement in a treatment program? I remain skeptical that such a site would actually be effective in getting addicts into treatment.

      • Ace, you are mistaken about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Those problems preexisted InSite. InSite was located there because that is where the need for it was greatest. It has been so successful that Canadians are now opening more SCSs in Vancouver and in multiple other cities.

        As for Seattle’s and King County’s opiate overdose task force, you can read all about it.

        Their recommendations are summarized as follows:

        Primary Prevention

        – Increase public awareness of effects of opioid use, including overdose and opioid-use disorder.
        – Promote safe storage and disposal of medications.
        – Work with schools and health-care providers to improve the screening practices and better identify opioid use.

        Treatment Expansion and Enhancement

        – Make buprenorphine more accessible for people who have opiate-use disorders.
        – Develop treatment on demand for all types of substance-use disorders.
        – Increase treatment capacity so that it’s accessible when and where someone is ready to receive help.

        Health and Harm Reduction

        – Continue to distribute more naloxone kits and making training available to homeless service providers, emergency responders and law enforcement officers.
        – Create a three-year pilot project that will include at least two locations where adults with substance-use disorders will have access to on-site services while safely consuming opioids or other substances under the supervision of trained healthcare providers.

      • Regarding safe consumption spaces’ siting, the task force’s report states (p28) that consideration for siting the pilot SCSs (a.k.a. community health engagement locations or CHELs) should include the following priorities:

        – Geographic concentration of drug consumption and overdose.
        – Co-location with or in close geographic proximity to (if co-location not possible) existing services utilized by the target population.
        – Local governmental and community engagement.
        – Fixed locations are preferred over a mobile CHEL during the pilot period
        – Establish at least one site outside the city of Seattle

        It goes on to state that the facilities should be sited in “geographic areas that have been identified as drug use/OD `hotspots'”, and that locations “that could potentially benefit from the services provided by a CHEL should be prioritized for potential CHEL sites.”

      • Phil, I’m not mistaken. It was a hellhole before and it’s a hellhole now. So it didn’t do anything to mitigate the problem. But Capitol Hill is not a hellhole. However, this Seattle Heroin Center would almost certainly turn its local area into one with such an enormous uptick in drug activity.

  6. Shifting more of the money for “homelessness” to drug and mental health treatment, education , job training … involuntary if necessary … seems like a better plan.

    Yes they need help, but not help to do more drugs.

    I’m sick of coddling these people. If they don’t want to work or help themselves get sober then give them a one way bus ticket out of town Sure would be less expensive than the millions wasted on “homelessness”. Call it what it is, drug addiction and mental health issues.

    I was a bleeding heart liberal on these causes at one point but …. call me heartless … Ive had enough !

  7. Oh look the NIMBY’s of Capitol Hill are out again! Maybe you should see how many of your neighbors have drug issues before you put all the blame on people who are homeless with drug issues and have some actual compassion instead of vile hate!

    • “Drug issues?”

      You mean like, “partied too hard and too long with recreational drugs which are well known to be highly addictive, and deadly?”

      Or, the “heroin saved my life” kind of drug issue?

  8. Regarding the Capitol Hill Community Council’s long history of support for SCSs:

    “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. I don’t think people are or would be dramatically opposed to this.”

    — Zachary Pullin | President of the Capitol Hill Community Council

    • Well, Zachary is wrong. If only the “Community Council” actually published a public meeting schedule so he could meet the people he claims to represent!

  9. I suggest you all do a Google street tour of the sh*tshow around Vancouver’s Insite injection locations….

    139 HASTINGS ST E, Vancouver BC

    Be sure to do a good three block tour. I’ve walked through the area multiple times. It’s the Walking Dead and even worse when the sun goes down.

    • Yep, bars on the windows of the few businesses remaining, tons of graffiti and litter, a memorial to the dead, heavy police presence, a fire truck (for emergency aid, probably permanent parked there), a guy with a shopping cart full of bicycles…

      you can actually see people shooting up in broad daylight on Street View in front of The Molsons Bank in some shots, and then a few shots later the police are there.

      And that’s just the block. Wonder what’s going on in the alleys and back streets where the police aren’t around.

      Seems like exactly the kind of thing we want in Capitol Hill, right? Only if you listen to professional activists like Phil Mocek and Patricia Sully from Tacoma, or these jokers on the self-proclaimed “Community Council” that apparently never has meetings.