Kent moves closer to permanent ban against safe injection sites

Kent city officials took another step toward a permanent ban against safe injection sites.

The council’s Economic and Community Development Committee voted 3-0 on Monday to recommend a permanent ban. The measure goes to the full seven-member council on Tuesday, Nov. 21, for approval. The city’s Land Use and Planning Board voted 6-0 on Oct. 23 to recommend to the council a permanent ban.

Safe injection sites are locations where people would be supervised while using heroin or other drugs. A task force, appointed by King County Executive Dow Constantine and then-Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, recommended earlier this year the creation of two safe-injection sites – one in Seattle and one at another county site. With 219 heroin and opioid related deaths in 2016 in the county, Constantine and others want to take steps to address the problem.

The city council voted 6-1 in August to approve a six-month ban. Councilman Dennis Higgins had the only no vote.

Bill Boyce, Jim Berrios and Tina Budell serve on the economic committee and approved the ban. Berrios said he agreed with the Land Use board’s comments that the city still needs to do something to help drug addicts.

“We need to address the lack of detox beds,” Berrios said at the committee meeting. “What happens to heroin users if they are not able to go through the detox process. … the first three or four days is very critical. We don’t have enough detox beds.”

Berrios said city officials should work with Union Gospel Mission, Kent’s John Volken Academy, Valley Cities and other local groups that offer treatment to addicts.

“We need to look at how do we better support organizations doing good work,” he said.

Budell agreed and added that longer-term treatment is needed.

“We need to guide them through the first two or three years of being sober. …if they have a positive support system, they stand a greater chance of not relapsing,” she said.

Budell said she favored the use of halfway houses to help people recover, somewhere they can get counseling and job training skills.

“I’m all for the city working with the county to get halfway housing here,” she said.

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