Seattle to move forward with controversial plan for supervised injection site

Seattle will be the only location for a supervised injection site for illegal drug users in the immediate future. Seattle King County Public Health said plans for a second location elsewhere in King County are on hold for now. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - Seattle will be the only location for a supervised injection site for illegal drug users in the immediate future.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Seattle King County Public Health said Thursday a proposed second location outside of Seattle is on hold until, “Seattle gets its location up and running,” and “shows some success."

Duchin made his comments to KOMO News after a progress report by Committee by the King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force he co-chairs to a Seattle City Council committee.

It’s been 15 months since Seattle King County Board of Health green-lighted a pilot program of two supervised injection sites, what health authorities call CHEL’s, Community Health Engagement Locations.

The hope was to get one up and running by the end of 2017.

The City of Seattle has allocated $1.3 million in its 2018 budget for CHELs and has the political will to move forward.

Nearly a dozen cites that have already said 'no' to injection sites including: Auburn, Bellevue, Black Diamond, Burien, Federal Way, Kent, Issaquah, Maple Valley, Renton, Sammamish and SeaTac.

An attempt to put I-27, an initiative for a county wide ban on the sites is currently in an appeal. The State Supreme Court could rule next month whether it will hear the case or send it to the Court of Appeals.

During the meeting of the Housing, Health, Energy and Workers’ Rights Committee, Seattle Councilmember Sally Bagshaw asked Jeff Sakuma, Mayor Jenny Durkan’s new Health Integration Strategist, to consider the three existing Public Health Clinics as potential sites.

“I think if we’re focusing just on safe injection sites people just freak out,” Bagshaw said. “People like public clinics."

Working with Seattle King County Public Health, the mayor’s office will eventually decide on the location in Seattle of it’s one and only site.

Saying he was too new to the job, Sakuma declined to elaborate on the Mayor’s plans.

Seattle’s CHEL site would be run by Seattle King County Public Health in collaboration with other community partners.

Councilmember Debora Juarez reaffirmed her intent to creating a supervised injection site in the City.

“At some point human lives matter,” Juarez said. “If we can do something about it, we should and if we don't, shame on us.”

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