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Will safe injection locations stop addicts from using in public places?

SEATTLE - Standing in the heart of downtown Seattle’s shopping district Ralph Sandaine talked about his niece’s struggles with heroin.

“Last September the heroin turnaround and shut down half her heart and shut down half her brain,” Sandaine said.

Jasmine, he said, later died. A death he’s confident that could have been avoided if she was offered better treatment options.

Helping the hundreds of people struggling with heroin addiction is the goal of the Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force.

When the group of doctors, politicians, law enforcement, treatment experts and people who work closely with addicts held a news conference in September, they said the county needs more treatment beds, better access to addiction-recovery medication and the opening of two supervised heroin injection locations.

On Friday, the task force will hold its second news conference, this time sources say the groups findings will be endorsed by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, in a Tweet on Saturday, supported the need for supervised heroin injection locations. Along with a photo of a hypodermic needle Satterberg Tweeted:

“Nordstrom bathroom Seattle. This is our city without #supervised injection sites. Not safe for anyone. We need @insitevan.”

Satterberg was referring to InSite Vancouver, a heroin injection location in British Columbia. Mayor Ed Murray and members of the task force have toured the drug injection site in recent months.

Seattle City Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw, who also supports the opening of heroin injection sites, said that she has heard from people working downtown about addicts leaving used needles in restrooms.

“Starbucks talks about it a lot. People will go in they’ll buy a cup of coffee, they’ll shoot up, they’ll leave their needles where an employee is going to have to empty the garbage. That’s a real problem,” Bagshaw said.

Both Satterberg and Bagshaw are hopeful that the heroin injection locations will help clean up this problem for businesses.

But, Bagshaw adds, any solution must include better access to treatment for addicts – which is something the heroin task force also recommends.

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