SEATTLE – The battle over drug consumption sites continues to brew. King County officials are pushing forward with a pilot program to bring a facility here where people can inject, smoke, snort or consume drugs under supervision.
Individual cities like Bothell have already enacted bans against the sites. Despite that, on Friday three King County Council members visited a facility in Vancouver, B.C., to see how the Canadian version works.
“I was shooting meth and heroin for about 11 to 12 months and I’ve had an addiction to opiates to pain pills before that for about 11 years,” said former addict Paige Clem.
It’s been a rough road for Clem. At one point, she thought drug consumption sites were a good idea. Since getting clean, she’s changed her mind.
“I think it’s a really enabling thing. I think it’s going to put more people on the streets and get more drugs more often,” said Clem.
But three King County Council members spent the day Friday in Vancouver at a drug consumption site. Council Member Jeanne Kohl-Welles supports bringing a similar facility to Seattle.
“Otherwise things are just going to keep getting worse,” said Kohl-Welles.
She’s tagged Capitol Hill as an ideal location.
“I’ve understood that the Capitol Hill Community Council would like to have one there. That there’s an area on Capitol Hill that is an area for hotspots for drugs,” said Kohl-Welles.
The pilot program would allow for two sites on a temporary basis -- one in Seattle and one in another part of King County. Despite city after city enacting bans against the drug consumption sites, Kohl-Welles argues they’ll open a pilot facility somewhere outside of Seattle in a place where it will be welcomed---which she admits may be hard to find.
“People also don’t like the idea of their kids going into a McDonald's bathroom, a park bathroom, or anywhere out in public and finding dirty needles,” said Kohl-Welles.
Along with Capitol Hill, she suggested the area surrounding the King County Courthouse.
“There’s a lot of poverty, there are a lot street people, there are a lot of people in shelters during the night and then they’re out during the day (for) what appears to be behavioral health issues as well as drug abuse issues,” said Kohl-Welles.
The King County Council is still split on bringing injection sites to the area. King County Sheriff-elect Mitzi Johanknecht does not support drug consumption sites.
“I’m concerned about that. otally operating on a criminal justice model does not work. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterburg also said his support for them,” said Kohl-Welles.
Seattle Mayor-elect Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council also support the sites, but Johanknecht says she’s concerned with the lack of information about how this will affect her department.
“We don’t know how the laws are going to be implemented. They haven’t even been funded yet so we’re not sure,” said Johanknecht.
Kohl-Welles argues it’ll take law enforcement resources around the sites to patrol them. In Vancouver, she says seven Vancouver police officers patrol the drug consumption site Insite for each shift around the clock.
Clem doesn’t believe those facilities should be in King County. She fears it won’t help her friends get off drugs.
“Yeah it’s a safe place to shoot up and stuff, but what if they go out after and they already have too much in their system? They could die. It makes me sad because a lot of my friends are using and I tried to help them to get clean,” said Clem.