Safe drug consumption sites have been recommended by the King County Heroin and Opioid Task Force. Pictured is a safe consumption site in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Photo supplied by ARCHES in Lethbridge

Safe drug consumption sites have been recommended by the King County Heroin and Opioid Task Force. Pictured is a safe consumption site in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Photo supplied by ARCHES in Lethbridge

What’s been happening with safe injection sites?

There hasn’t been much coverage this year compared to the last couple years.

Safe drug consumption sites were a hot topic throughout much of 2018, with contentious debates both for and against them, but over the past year the conversation has been more muted.

A couple of key things happened over the past 12 months that put a damper on local efforts. The first was a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia, which tried to block proposed injection sites in that city. The second was an announcement from U.S. Attorney Brian Moran in Seattle, who threatened the same should safe consumption sites move forward here, KUOW reported.

In October, a U.S. District Court judge in Philadelphia ruled that safe consumption sites do not violate federal drug laws, according to NPR. The ruling allows that city’s site to move forward, but an appeal was expected.

Safe consumption sites saw support in King County and Seattle. Because of a backlash, sites could only be placed in cities that agreed to host them. Seattle was one of those cities — and may hold the key to creating them in the Pacific Northwest.

Activists are taking stock, including Jesse Rawlins, the spokesperson for Yes to Safe Consumption Sites. The organization is part of the Public Defender Association and has pushed for bringing the sites — which are used in Canada and Europe — to King County in an attempt to curb overdose deaths.

“I’m definitely optimistic, I think again (Seattle Mayor Jenny) Durkan in particular, she campaigned on implementation of safe consumption and the city council has shown a lot of leadership in allocating resources through their legislative budget process, and the mayor has not made as much movement,” he said. “So I think there is a lot of opportunity for executive branches in local government to make movement on this.”

Rawlins said Seattle could be a national and local leader in implementing what he called evidence-based practices like safe consumption sites.

On the other end, groups like Citizens for a Safe King County have been trying to block the sites from opening. Last fall, the group tried to place I-27 on the ballot, which would have prevented the county from spending money on funding the sites. The Washington State Supreme Court struck down the initiative, saying it would have infringed on the county’s right to set its own budget.

As the county has struggled to figure out whether it will create safe consumption sites, overdoses both nationally and locally have remained high. There’s also signs that it has turned from a prescription opioid epidemic into a heroin and fentanyl crisis.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office showed that 409 people died from drug overdoses in 2018, an increase from 383 in 2017. Fentanyl overdoses were also higher in 2018 when compared to previous years. Three high school students have also died in recent months in the county because of fentanyl overdoses.

Safe consumption sites were a recommendation of the King County Heroin and Opioid Task Force. It’s also one that has a relatively long track record in Vancouver, B.C., where the sites were started in 2003. Several reports since the sites opened showed either neutral or positive results, despite critics who blame it for creating and encouraging drug use.

One study on the Vancouver site, published in The Lancet in 2011, showed there was already a 35% reduction in overdoses in the vicinity of Insite, the safe consumption site. This was compared to the 9.3% reduction in other parts of Vancouver. It was also before Canada began dealing with its much deadlier fentanyl overdose epidemic.

At the local level, King County Executive Dow Constantine’s communications manager Alex Fryer said in an email that Seattle is taking the lead on this issue, and that he had no new comment.

Dan Nolte, a spokesperson for Seattle’s City Attorney’s office, said while they can’t advise whether the city should move forward, they provide legal guidance to the city. Representatives from the Seattle City Council did not return a request for comment by deadline.

“It puts us in a tough situation because all the advice and insight we gleaned from lawsuits elsewhere, the advice we give to the mayor is protected by attorney-client privilege,” Nolte said. “It’s ultimately their call.”

The U.S. District Court in Philadelphia doesn’t set precedent for district courts here, Nolte said, but it’s likely that local representatives are paying attention regardless.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

t
One of two victims identified in fiery Kent crash

Kristen Anne Meyers, 53, died in May 11 crash on West Hill, according to medical examiner

t
City-owned ShoWare Center in Kent loses $742,675 in 2023

Losses lower than projected but expenses continue to exceed revenue at 6,200-seat arena

t
Kent firefighters extinguish two fires on the same morning | Photos

Friday, May 17 at apartment leasing office in the Valley and at a vacant East Hill house

Courtesy Photo, City of Kent
City of Kent population drops by 1,051 in 2023 compared to 2022

Decline similar to many cities of 50,000 or more across the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau

t
Kent Police Blotter: April 25 to May 8

Incidents include burglaries, robberies, shootings

t
Rape charges dismissed against former Kent school bus driver

Prosecutors decide they could not prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt due to medical tests

t
Feds indict 9 South King County residents on drug trafficking charges

Those accused from Federal Way, Kent, Renton, Enumclaw

A screenshot of King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn speaking about a proposed amendment for the proposed $20 minimum wage ordinance. (Screenshot)
King County approves $20.29 minimum wage for unincorporated areas

Councilmember Reagan Dunn and more than a dozen business owners argued tips and health care expenses should be a part of the new wage. The council passed the ordinance without the amendment.

Dave Upthegrove. COURTESY PHOTO
Upthegrove one of seven candidates for state lands commissioner

His King County Council member’s district includes part of Kent

COURTESY PHOTO, King County Elections
Candidates file for Kent-area races for Congress, Legislature

Incumbents face challengers in two Congressional contests and four state House races

t
Two die in single-car crash in Kent on West Hill

Sedan crashed Saturday evening, May 11 into tree and caught fire in 2400 block of South 272nd Street

t
Spanaway man, 25, faces murder charge in Kent bar shooting

Reportedly shot Federal Way man, 30, eight times inside Meeker Street Bar & Grill