Local leaders take big step toward ‘safe consumption site' for addicts

A majority of people on King County heroin’s task force support the idea of a safe consumption site.

KIRO 7 News reported in February that Seattle could be the first city in the U.S. to allow safe consumption sites, where people with drug addiction can safely use drugs under medical supervision.

Proponents of a "safe consumption site" point to a similar housing operation in Seattle, where 75 alcoholics can drink in their rooms and have access to on-site treatment services. Studies show the operation saved taxpayers millions in housing and crisis services annually and decreased alcohol consumption in residents.

The Metropolitan Improvement District Clean Team collected nearly 800 syringes in January near Seattle's downtown, where they serve.

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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine formed the task force in March after seeing startling statistics of overdose deaths and skyrocketing numbers of people seeking treatment.

They gathered a group of about 30 people from different disciplines in the health industry, law enforcement, and human resources.

The force has endorsed opening a safe consumption site for addicts, The Seattle Times reported.

Task force member Dr. Jeffrey Duchin says the group is working on releasing a formal proposal for the site next month.

KIRO 7 News spoke with some people on the task force who say the city would see a lot fewer syringes on the street and a lot fewer people dying from using drugs.

"I've done a lot of work looking at where are people dying of drug overdoses," Dr. Caleb Banta-Green, a University of Washington drug researcher, told KIRO 7 News in February.  "It's all across King County.  It's not just downtown."

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He insists there is evidence the safe consumption sites work.

"You can get a decrease in syringes being discarded," said Dr. Banta-Green. "You can get a decrease in terms of people injecting drugs and using drugs in public.  You can get a decrease in deaths, it looks like, from these facilities."

Opponents say a consumption site condones drug use.