Seattle moving forward with 'fixed mobile' safe injection site

SEATTLE — After years of controversy, Seattle is moving forward on plans for a safe-injection site – and it won’t be in a building.

Meg Olberding with Seattle’s Human Services Department said in an email Thursday, “The City is now looking at a large mobile medical van that would go to the same site each day. It would move in the overnight hours for garaging and cleaning.”

The location where the safe injection van would be parked each day has not been decided. (The city calls it a “Community Health Engagement Location,” or CHEL.)

Olberding said over the phone the van would be larger than the city's current mobile medical vans that provide services like vaccinations to people who are homeless. Click here to read more.

“We were looking at those city-owned and county-owned properties, but none were really viable that were appropriate,” Olberding said.

She said the city is looking to put the van in a spot where there is a concentration of people using alone and outside, and in a place that’s prevalent to overdoses and deaths.

“We know generally where the majority of that activity happens, sort of happens in the downtown corridor, down through the Sodo district, that activity occurs on the west Capitol Hill area,” said Jeff Sakuma, who also works with the Human Services Department under Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Sakuma presented the latest plans with the “fixed mobile” site during Seattle City Council’s Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights Committee meeting Thursday.

Sakuma explained that what they’re looking for is to park the van in a private lot, right against a building. Consumption would happen inside the vehicle, and a waiting area and access to treatment would be available inside the building.

Security and “neighborhood mitigation services” would also be provided.

“For the community out there and listening, to help step up so we can find a site that works. I think we’re calling on the faith community to help us find a location that may work, and we’re calling on our non-profits as well,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who chairs the committee.

Olberding also said the city also considered buying property, but options in Seattle were “cost restrictive.”

Olberding said the next step is narrowing down the fixed site locations within the next two months, and start community outreach and engagement in July.

Startup costs will cost about $1.8 million dollars, and King County Public Health will run the facility once it's up.

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