'Safe injection sites' get thumbs up from county health board | KUOW News and Information

'Safe injection sites' get thumbs up from county health board

Jan 19, 2017

Supervised drug consumption sites have the approval of King County's Board of Health. On Thursday, the board unanimously endorsed the idea, after a task force on heroin recommended it last year.

The health board recommends that elected officials and Public Health Seattle & King County get to work on opening two safe consumption sites. They suggest one in Seattle and one elsewhere in King County.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles is a member of the Board of Health and the King County Council. She says she used to think drug addicts were deviants lurking in alleys. But her mind was changed after two relatives became addicts, and one died of a heroin overdose.

Kohl-Welles: "Is the solution to pretend it doesn't happen, or to take a total criminal justice approach? Or do we treat this as a health care issue that should be led by health care professionals?"

Kohl-Welles says that injection sites staffed with health professionals are a step toward preventing overdoses.

Some citizens are concerned the sites would enable drug users. Gretchen Taylor, of the Neighborhood Safety Alliance of Seattle shared her concerns with the board on Thursday.

Taylor: "Drug consumption sites actually cause harm, because funding of consumption sites takes away millions of dollars that could be spent providing drug treatment."

The health board's endorsement is not a green light for the sites to open. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray are expected to announce in the next few weeks whether they will follow through with the proposal. Any sites in King County would be the first of their kind in the U.S., modeled after a clinic in Vancouver, B.C.