'Safe consumption site' decision a few weeks away, to senator's chagrin | KUOW News and Information

'Safe consumption site' decision a few weeks away, to senator's chagrin

Jan 24, 2017

Seattle and King County could open the nation's first supervised drug use site. The idea doesn't have formal approval, but King County's Board of Health and a separate heroin task force have both endorsed the sites.

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Safe drug consumption sites are staffed with medical professionals. There's one in Vancouver, B.C., and supporters say the clinic helps prevent overdoses.

King County leaders are expected to announce within the next few weeks whether they will open one here. Both Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and County Executive Dow Constantine have vocally supported the idea but have not committed to a plan. Constantine thinks if they do open a supervised drug site, they won't need to wait for federal approval.

Constantine: "This would be our local work and what we want to do is simply make sure that we're thinking first of the lives of our residents. And whatever we can do to help free people from this horrible opioid epidemic, we want to do."

Constantine says any safe consumption sites would be just part of a larger effort to prevent drug overdoses.

The federal Department of Justice says they are not allowed to comment on proposed local laws.

There are critics of the idea, including some Seattle residents, who worry that opening a site for people to use will enable drug addicts.

In Olympia, Republican state Senator Mark Miloscia also opposes the idea and has introduced a bill to prohibit safe consumption sites. Miloscia thinks supervised consumption sites are a step toward decriminalizing heroin.

His bill is getting some sharp criticism from Seattle City Council Member Debora Juarez, who also sits on the King County Board of Health. In a City Council meeting Monday she recapped her initial reaction to the bill.

Juarez: "I think I called it a piece of crap. Yeah, I did. But anyway, my concern is this: I've read a lot of bills in my life, but this one was probably one of the most offensive."

Juarez says that's because Miloscia's proposal would punish any county or health district that opens a safe consumption site as a tool in preventing drug overdoses.

She says the King County Board of Health plans to send Miloscia a letter opposing his bill.