Leaders: Seattle heroin site to open first, then county site

UPDATE: Heroin-injection sites are expected to come to King County. The first would open in Seattle, ideally within a year, leaders said. The second would be elsewhere in King County.

Specific locations and a definitive timeline haven’t been established. But King County and Seattle leaders spoke in favor of the plan Friday afternoon. Seattle’s site would open first

The director of the county health department will chair an implementation workgroup tasked with creating the first pilot site in Seattle and the second one later.

The site do not increase harm in communities and do not increase drug use, said University of Washington researcher Caleb Banta-Green, who is the preeminent county expert on heroin addiction.

Ultimately there will need to be more than two, he said.

Other county leaders described the heroin and opioid epidemic as a public health emergency and insisted the development of the safe injection sites are similar to the opening of local needle exchanges for drug users decades ago.

Deputies will not arrest people going to or coming from a heroin safe-injection site, King County Sheriff John Urquhart said.

Someone locally likely talked to the Drug Enforcement Administration about the county’s plan, Urquhart said, but it wasn’t him. County leaders said they do not believe they need additional authority to move forward.

KIRO 7 livestramed the press briefing at 1:45 p.m., and you can watch that full briefing below. 

Injection sites for drug users? Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine discuss how to move forward with recommendations from the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force.

Posted by KIRO 7 News on Friday, January 27, 2017

ORIGINAL TEXT: King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will discuss a plan to move forward with the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force recommendations, which includes injection sites for drug users.

Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force recommendations include:

  1. Prevention of opioid use: Promote safe storage and disposal of medications.
  2. Treatment expansions: At needle exchanges, make treatment on demand available for all types of substance-use disorders.
  3. Preventing overdoses: Seattle officers started carrying Narcan, a nasal inhalant, in mid-March. It can reverse the physical effects of a heroin or pharmaceutical opioid overdose in minutes. The task force wants to continue to distribute naloxone kits to more locations such as treatment providers, homeless shelters, law enforcement, and first responders
  4. Injection sites: Injection sites would offer users who take drugs outside, to use those drugs indoors in a supervised facility. 

The two leaders will hold a news conference on Friday about the plan. You can watch it at 1 p.m. on kiro7.com here.

It was not explained on Thursday whether the leaders will move forward with all or some of the recommendations.

Here's what to know about injection sites in Seattle: 

  • Heroin crisis task force recommended 2 injections sites last year
  • A councilwoman suggested Belltown and Lake City 
  • Proponents said it could say taxpayers millions in crisis services 
  • Opponents said a consumption site condones drug use. 
  • Washington state senator introduced bill banning injection sites in state. 
  • The King County prosecutor endorsed safe injection sites in January. 
  • Read an expansive timeline of developments below.

Here’s a timeline of how the discussion behind Seattle becoming the first U.S. city with sites for heroin users to safely use drugs.

Jan. 26: King County prosecutor endorses safe injection sites for drug users

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg endorsed safe injection sites.

Safe injection sites are designated clinics where addicts can shoot up legally.

Satterberg said that unlike the response to crack cocaine in the 80s and 90s, “I believe that the criminal justice system should not take a primary role, and that instead we should follow the lead of public health professionals.”

The Board of Health approved two pilot safe injection sites, as part of a group of recommendations from the King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force that it also approved.

Jan. 17, 2019: Washington state senator introduces bill banning sites

On Tuesday, a Washington state senator introduced legislation that would ban the creation on heroin injection sites in Washington cities.

Sen. Mark Miloscia wrote in a news release on Tuesday that he introduced a bill to ban such sites.

"We must stop the push for decriminalization of drugs," said Miloscia, R-Federal Way. "Standing idly by while addicts abuse illegal drugs is not compassionate, and it does not solve the problem."

The clinic manager of the site at Vancouver told KIRO 7 News that the overdose death rate in the area around Insite has dropped 35 percent. But Miloscia believes the safe-injection site is a failure.

“We must focus our time, money and resources on treatment options that get people off illegal drugs, not encourage drug abuse," he said.

November 2016: Where overdoses are happening and possible site locations 

The King County Heroin Crisis Task Force recommended at least two safe injection sites for drug users last year. Seattle City Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw volunteered Seattle for two sites: one in Belltown and one in Lake City.

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.

In Seattle, public overdoses are on the rise. Supporters say so-called safe injection sites are a way to combat the overdoses. In a recent KIRO 7 News investigative report, we mapped out where overdosing cases happen.  Here's a 2016 map.

Overdoses are overloading Seattle Fire and diverting crews from other emergencies.  Each call costs at least two-thousand-dollars, costing taxpayers millions since 2014.

September 2016: King County Heroin Crisis Task Force recommends 2 injection sites

The King County Heroin Crisis Task Force is recommending at least two safe injection sites for drug users: one located within Seattle and one outside city limits.

They announced the recommendation with a proposed number of locations in a news conference on Thursday.

“These sites will provide individuals with opiod use disorder a portal to return to healthy lives by reducing overdoses and preventing infections like Hep B & C  HIV,” said Jeff Duchin, a health officer with Public Health of Seattle & King County.

August 2016: 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.

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.

February 2016: Seattle considering ‘safe places' for addicts to shoot up

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.

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

Dr. Banta-Green says the use of illegal drugs like heroin has become a public health crisis.

"I do think we have to do something," he said.  "It's really quite striking."

That something, say drug prevention activists, should be safe injection or consumption sites, like in Vancouver, British Columbia, where users take drugs in a clinic without risking arrest.

Opponents say a consumption site condones drug use.

So what would a consumption site look like?

KIRO 7 News went to Vancouver to see how the injection site operated and if a King County site would run similarly.

When a KIRO 7 News crew was in Vancouver, we saw people injecting on the street -- they told us because of the wait to get a booth.

The clinic does not give users drugs; it provides free, clean supplies.

“People often go with a cooker, alcohol, need a tie for your arm, a bit of water,” clinic manager Andy Day told KIRO 7 News.




Staff members at the clinic refer to people who seek help as clients. Clients take their supplies to one of 13 booths fitted with mirrors and inject themselves under the watchful eyes of health care professionals. The booths are almost always full.

Since opening in 2003, Day says the overdose death rate in the area around Insite has dropped 35 percent, and saving addicts in the clinic costs three million taxpayer dollars a year. 
Day says that's cheaper than treating them in the hospital for the drugs, or diseases contracted because of the drugs.

Trending on kiro7.com