Following the success of Canadian safe-injection sites, Seattle is debating whether to open their own facility

 

Orange County, CA - November 21st 2017 -  Following the divisive success of safe-injection sites in Canada, Seattle is currently debating whether to open their own facility in efforts to combat illicit drug use on the streets. In 2016 alone, Seattle lost 359 people to drug overdose. Of those deaths 31 percent occurred in King County, the same county now pushing for a safe-injection facility. “Safe-injection” sites are government subsidized facilities that allow addicts to inject their drug of choice while employees safely regulate antidotes, and most importantly, revive a patient in case of accidental overdose. Supporters of safe-injection sites believe that accidental overdose death rates will diminish if a clean and safe location is available for addicts who won’t seek treatment.

Supporters and opponents are lobbying their respective arguments at King County council meetings. The opposition’s main argument is that these sites enable copious drug use and its normalization, heroin use in particular. Another argument mentions property crime; these sites will draw criminal activity to the neighborhood.

Supporters of safe-injection are emboldened by the success Seattle had 10 years ago when it opened a government-subsidized apartment building to help the city’s drunk and disorderly population. Prior to the complex’s opening, these chronic alcoholics had become a public nuisance, urinating and vomiting on the sidewalks, costing the city millions in emergency room bills and jail visits. Although controversial at the time, the county ultimately placed 75 of these citizens in government housing. The substance abusers were not forced to quit, however treatment services would be made available. The city’s goal was to keep them in a safe place while eliminating public disturbances. Critics at the time saw the apartment complex as a way to “aid and abet someone’s self-destruction,” but Clif Curry, the King County Council’s chief legislative analyst, remained hopeful.

Seattle to Open First “Safe-Injection” Site to Prevent Heroin Overdose

The research showed … that one out of five sought treatment on their own, even though they were allowed to continue to drink themselves to death,” Curry explained. Even among those who didn’t seek help, “they weren’t dying anymore. Plus, there are no chronic inebriates on the street anymore,” he said.

Despite Seattle’s success with their chronic-alcoholic population, pushback on the safe-injection facility has been persistent. One opponent, identified only as Amy, spoke at the King County council meeting to share her story. Many of her friends had died from overdoses, but she saw those deaths as expected, saying, “That’s what happens. My concern is that when we say, ‘We’re going to make this easy, we’re going to make this safe,’ we are subtly saying, ‘This is okay,’” she explained to a reporter from The Atlantic. “There is some value in things being horrible.”

Canada has seen success with their safe-consumption sites. Studies have shown overdose deaths have decreased since Insite, a Vancouver-based safe-injection site, opened in 2003. Other research has shown that safe-injection sites overall do not impact neighborhood crime rates. Using the Canadian model, King County hopes to emulate their success and bring safe-injection sites to America.

Seattle is considering the validity of statements brought forth on both sides. Another woman described to The Atlantic why she supports safe-injection sites: she believes they’ll keep addicts safe and reduce the amount of drug paraphernalia on the streets. She believes that ultimately, the longer addicts are kept alive, the greater chance they have to turn their life around and seek treatment. “Addicts are not ready to enter treatment and get help until they decide they’re ready,” she said, “and safe-injection sites aim to keep them alive long enough to eventually get there.”

  

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