I urge you to fund safe consumption spaces (aka - community health engagement locations) and immediately implement the city and county's Opiate Addiction Task Force recommendations. Please provide full funding adequate to open and operate this critical public health intervention in the 2019 Budget for the Human Services Department. Bureaucratic delay is causing unnecessary death and the time to act is now.
Seattle and King County are facing an opioid epidemic. In 2017, 258 people died from opioid-involved overdoses in King County. The task force recommended a comprehensive strategy that focuses on prevention and providing treatment on demand. One part of this strategy is to reach out to people struggling with addiction who are not willing to enter treatment voluntarily, via facilities like safe consumption spaces (SCS).
SCS are clean spaces where people use previously obtained drugs under the supervision of healthcare professionals who provide overdose prevention, safe and sterile equipment, support and referrals to medical, mental health, rehabilitation, and social services. These programs have been operating across Australia, Canada, and Europe for decades and have successfully prevented overdose deaths, the transmission of disease, and have linked people to treatment. The evidence clearly shows they work, and our region's public health experts fully endorse this approach.
The opiate task force was clear that the two pilot sites should go where they are needed and where the local community is supportive. It's also important to remember that the SCS pilots are a cost-effective investment and don't take resources away from treatment or prevention. We must invest in outreach strategies to engage people who are not yet ready for treatment. This is what SCS are designed to do - connect with people, keep them healthy, and prevent them from dying.
During the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s, Seattle and King County emerged as leaders in adopting harm reduction strategies such as needle exchanges. The same arguments made today against SCS were made then against needle exchanges. Thankfully, the city and county elected officials listened to public health experts, and Public Health - Seattle & King County now have one of the most successful HIV/AIDS programs in the world.
Seattle has been a leader on drug policy for decades. Don't allow fearmongering based on anti-scientific rhetoric stop the opening of an SCS pilot. Listen to the public health experts and fund safe consumption spaces in the 2019 Budget for the Human Services Department.