Supervised injection sites get 'big win' in federal court

KING COUNTY, Wash. – A federal judge’s decision in Pennsylvania could set the tone on planned supervised injection sites moving forward.

The judge ruled on Wednesday that planned supervised injection sites -- where illegal drugs can be used under medical supervision as a way to address overdoses brought on by the opioid epidemic -- do not violate federal drug laws.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and King County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Howard Schneiderman both went on the record urging the court to rule in support of Safehouse based in Philadelphia, and recommended the court reject the Department of Justice’s “overreaching and unsupportable” interpretation of these facilities.

“What an incredible ruling, which I expect will inform the conversation ahead,” said Holmes. “This is a big win in the pursuit toward overdose prevention.”

King County and Seattle were two out of six cities and counties across the country that signed off on the recommendations made to the court.

The other four communities include New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Ithaca.

Former State Sen. Mark Miloscia has been a strong opponent of supervised injection facilities. He’s hoping this federal court ruling will be overturned in a higher court.

“It just encourages people to take drugs. There is no system to get them into treatment. These heroin injection sites don’t help people get into treatment, it actually leads more people to take drugs,” said Miloscia, who visited a site in Vancouver.

Holmes said the next steps after this ruling will ultimately fall in the lap of elected leaders in the region.