In a New York Times op-ed published in August, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made clear the federal government’s opposition to SIFs, declaring that they will “only make the opioid crisis worse.”
“Because federal law clearly prohibits injection sites, cities and counties should expect the Department of Justice to meet the opening of any injection site with swift and aggressive action,” wrote Rosenstein.
But city officials and proponents say Seattle and greater King County need “an aggressive, comprehensive approach” to the drug crisis as drug-related deaths rise. According to a recent report by Seattle & King County Public Health, drug and alcohol-related deaths have increased for six consecutive years in King County.
“We took note of what the Department of Justice wrote about this, we’re cognizant of it, but we believe strongly in a public health approach to substance abuse disorder,” said Mayor Durkan.
Last Monday, Durkan released a proposed budget that would set aside $1.3 million to fund the SIF pilot program. “You’ll see in the budget that we will continue to work for safe injection sites,” said the mayor. “We want this to be part of a holistic system of treatment.” The final vote on whether to adopt the budget is set for mid-November, following budget proposal hearings in October.
Last we heard, the plan was to establish two supervised injection facilities—one in Seattle and one elsewhere in King County. The idea came from a list of recommendations on how to best address the region’s drug problem presented by the county’s Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force in 2016.
KUOW reports that Seattle officials are seeking a location “likely downtown or in Belltown” for the SIF, in addition to a mobile unit that will serve the same purpose. However, Durkan said they are still working on the “framework” with the county before they can set a location.
While opponents say the sites will do more harm than good, proponents say that they save lives and increase the probability of connecting people with treatment.
“Treatment is really the main bottom line that we’re trying to promote as the most effective, you know, population-wide intervention,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for King County. “We want people getting in long-term treatment. And this is just one doorway that we can use to get people into treatment.”