Seattle, King County moving ahead with first-in-nation ‘safe injection sites’ for drug addicts

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine say they’re going ahead with plans to create safe injection sites where people can use heroin or other opioids under the watch of medical professionals.

Advocates say such sites save lives and can connect users with health services, which is crucial as addiction levels have skyrocketed. A 40-member task force convened last year recommended opening one safe-injection site in Seattle and one in another part of King County. Their exact locations have not been determined yet.

They would be the first such sites in the United States. The formal site’s name is Community Health Engagement Location or CHEL.

Murray said, “The King County Executive and I have directed Seattle/King County Public Health to implement the task force recommendation of two CHEL pilot sites, one in the city and one in the county. This work will begin with an implementation workgroup that will address questions of funding, siting, and operations.

“My visit to Insite, Vancouver, Canada’s safe consumption site, made clear these sites save lives and that is our goal in Seattle/King County. Keeping people alive gives them the opportunity to get treatment and begin their path to recovery,” Murray said.

Murray and Constantine say they want to adopt all of the recommendations the task force made, which also include focusing on prevention and increasing access to treatment on demand.

King County has already made 1,500 overdose-reversal kits available to law enforcement, treatment providers, and shelter staff.