• 'Dozens' of underground heroin-injection sites operating now in King County

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    Shilo Jama showed us the needle exchange he runs in Seattle's University District.

    The supplies, including needles and naloxone, are not all that different from what he found when he visited underground supervised consumption sites in and around Seattle.

    Jama said his organization, the People's Harm Reduction Alliance, has no role in running the illegal supervised consumption sites.

    But his work did earn him invitations to visit them.

    "They asked me to leave my cellphone at home and disconnect any GPS I had in my car," Jama said.

    Jama said, as Seattle and King County discuss opening safe consumption sites, there are dozens of underground locations in our area already operating.

    "They're slowly developing their own culture and their own service. It's a lot like the speak-easies of old where you've got to know someone to be invited in. You need the password or some kind of information that you're not, kind of, out to get them," Jama said.   

    Jama said the sites range widely in how well they're organized and where they're located, from tents in homeless camps to basements, apartments and houses.

    He described one that appeared well-funded, with an attendant sitting at a stainless steel table shaped like a crescent moon, surrounded by users.

    "It almost reminded me of some trendy bar," Jama said.

    Jama said all of the locations had someone not using drugs who was able to collect biohazards and administer naloxone in case of overdoses.

    He said one volunteer identified as a hospital nurse and another another as a former EMT.

    Jama said local officials considering supervised drug use sites would do well to find out what's already happening, as people take saving lives into their own hands.

    "For me, it's like when we legalized marijuana. We had to ask people who were drug dealers to find out how best to make these policies," Jama said.


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