Safe heroin injection sites facing bans in more communities

SEATTLE – Three King County cities have rejected the idea of a safe drug-consumption facility from opening in their communities.

The safe injection sites would be the first-of-its kind in America, and a place where addicts could get high under medical supervision and receive life-saving care in cases of overdose.

But after so many cities have banned or are considering bans, is there any chance of opening one outside the city of Seattle?

So far both the county and city agree one facility should open in Seattle; the other is needed somewhere else in the county.

“This is not primarily a moral challenge, this is not primarily a criminal justice issue,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “This is a public health crisis and we have to treat it that way.”

The plan to open two safe drug-consumption sites, one in Seattle and a second in another king county city, hit yet another roadblock.

On Tuesday, Federal Way became the third city to oppose them; Bellevue and Auburn had already done that.

Both Renton and Kent are also considering bans, making the battle even tougher for proponents.

“A panel of experts recommended safe injection sites as one of many strategies to save people’s lives and get them out of addiction,” said Constantine. “These cities, it’s their prerogative to ban those sites within those borders, but that doesn’t mean there are fewer addicts or fewer people who are in danger of overdose in those cities.”

Kris Nyrop works for the Public Defender Association and his work with addicts helped policymakers craft the safe consumption sites plan.

“For a lot of people, the idea of creating a space where someone can go in and use drugs is like mind-boggling,” he said.

Nyrop also said a recently released study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine proves the facilities work.

The study said an under-the-radar site somewhere in America was already making a difference in saving people from overdose deaths – all without local government approval.

Either way, sanctioned or unsanctioned, Nyrop believes they sites could immediately make an impact in saving those who might otherwise die in an alley.

“If they don’t work, we’ll try something different. But if they do work, which we strongly believe they will, then let’s open them up and open some more,” he said.

The planned locations for each facility has yet to be made public and may not until 2018.

A recent White House report said more than 140 people overdose each day in the United States.