Prior to the cities of Philadelphia and San Francisco recently announcing plans to open supervised injection sites, Seattle and King County shared their own intentions to build the first such facilities in the United States more than a year ago. A representative for Seattle’s Public Health Department says those plans are still a go after facing strong opposition from community groups.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine in January 2017 unveiled plans to set up two supervised injection facilities on the recommendation of their Heroin and Prescription Opiate Task Force. The facilities were to be the first of their kind in the United States. A complicated 13 months followed:
- In July, a community group opposed to the Seattle-King County plan collected the resident signatures needed to put on the ballot Initiative 27, a bill that would have banned supervised injection sites in the county. Initiative 27 was scheduled to be put up for a public vote on Feb. 13.
- In August, multiple Seattle suburbs passed their own legislation banning supervised injection sites within their respective city limits. (King County Council voted in June 2017 to allow cities to opt out of having safe injection facilities within their municipalities.)
- In October, a King County Superior Court judge ruled Initiative 27 as invalid, and the proposed bill was removed from the ballot, clearing the way for a supervised injection site to be built.
- In November, Seattle’s city council allocated $1.3 million in its budget to fight the opioid epidemic with the development of a supervised injection site.
The council also commissioned a report to study issues such as “capital and operational costs for the facility, criteria for site selection and plans for community engagement,” James Apa, King County Public Health Department communications director, told Behavioral Healthcare Executive in an email. The report is due by the end of February.
“We expect the planning work and community engagement to continue into the first half of 2018 before any site is operational,” Apa said in his email.
The opposition to supervised injection facilities voiced by residents last summer has not changed the county’s strategies for tackling the opioid epidemic, Apa said. In addition to continuing to work toward opening a supervised injection site, King County has:
- Opened a detox and treatment facility that prioritizes bed space for homeless individuals. The facility is operated by Valley Cities Behavioral Health Care.
- Started a pilot project offering rapid access to buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder
- Distributed more than 1,500 naloxone kits to area law enforcement and treatment providers
- Set up 110 secure medicine drop boxes at area pharmacies and law enforcement agencies
“We’re moving ahead on all of the recommendations of the task force to address the local epidemic,” Apa said.
Addiction professionals annually convene at the National Conference on Addiction Disorders to share what’s working: Clinicians hear from thought leaders on delivering treatment, while executives of behavioral healthcare organizations learn how to run more effective, more efficient, and ethically minded businesses.