Dana Ralph, Kent City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate. File Photo

Ralph proposes ban in Kent on safe injection sites

City Councilwoman Dana Ralph wants the council to ban legal heroin injection sites, also known as safe injection sites, in Kent.

“First of all I want to clear up some misconceptions,” Ralph said in a press release Thursday. “There are no such things as safe injection sites because you won’t find a medical provider anywhere that will tell you shooting up heroin is safe. I have called upon the City Council president to take action on this time sensitive and critically important issue by placing an ordinance on the agenda for the next council meeting.”

Council President Bill Boyce said on Thursday in a phone interview that an ordinance to ban the safe injection sites will be on the agenda for the meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15, at City Hall. Ralph proposed the idea of a ban during a conversation with Boyce on Tuesday, he said.

“I agree with that,” Boyce said about a ban. “I reached out to the other council members (except Dennis Higgins who was out of town) one by one and they are all in agreement.”

Ralph said it’s important for Kent to implement a ban.

“As a mother, small business owner, community volunteer and council member, I will not sit idly by and allow the possibility of our government condoning the usage of a deadly drug in government sanctioned areas anywhere within our city,” Ralph said.

A task force created last year by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine recommended creation of two safe-injection sites -one in Seattle and one in another county site. Murray and Constantine endorsed the panel’s recommendations. The group has not picked any sites.

Safe injection sites, or locations where people would be supervised while using heroin, were part of more than 30 recommendations of the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force.

The King County Board of Health, an 11-member board of elected officials and doctors, voted unanimously in January to endorse the sites, which would be the first of their kind in the nation. Vancouver Coastal Health, a public agency, runs a drug injection site in Vancouver, B.C.

The King County Council voted 5-4 in June to limit the use of county funds for establishing heroin injection sites only in cities whose elected leaders choose to allow the facilities.

Since that county council vote, the city councils of Auburn, Bellevue and Federal Way have each unanimously passed bans against safe injection sites. Staff from the City of Kent Attorney’s Office looked at ordinances in those cities to help write a draft ordinance, Boyce said.

“It would create more problems that it would solve,” Boyce said about the injection sites. “And King County said it would not force it on us.”

Ralph, a candidate to be Kent mayor along with fellow council member Jim Berrios, said in her press release she would work next year to find other ways to help drug addicts.

“I will convene a task force of service providers, mental health experts, community leaders and residents to propose an alternative plan,” she said. “We have folks in crisis that have been consumed by addiction and I am committed to treating the root causes of addiction. We need to invest in mental health, crisis intervention services and treatment for those want help turning their lives around.”

Ralph also called on support for the ban from Berrios.

“As mayoral candidates I believe we need to stand united on this issue and that the community deserves to know where we stand on something that could alter the very fabric of their community,” she said. “Therefore, I call on my opponent, to join me in opposing heroin injection sites in Kent. I hope he (Berrios) will work with myself and others to pass an ordinance prohibiting these sites.”

Berrios could not be reached for comment on Thursday. Berrios and Ralph said at a mayoral forum during the primary race that they opposed allowing drug injection sites.

Meanwhile, Joshua Freed, a member of the Bothell City Council, is leading a drive for an initiative to ban safe injection sites in King County for heroin and other drugs. Initiative 27 leaders say they are on pace to collect enough signatures to get the proposal on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.