Community forum tackles ‘safe consumption’ drug site controversy

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

SEATTLE — People living in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood say they’re worried the county is going to put a controversial facility right in their backyard.

King County wants to give addicts a safe place to use drugs and ease them into recovery. But it’s something many in Lake City don’t want to see in their neighborhood.

“I see people laying around in the bathroom stall tweaking,” said Crown Hill resident Rudy Pantoja Jr.

Pantoja said the opioid epidemic is part of his everyday life.

As a gardener, he’s been poked by used needles multiple times.

“Check me out for Hepatitis C, HIV, and other illnesses that go along with getting poked. It’s expensive and it’s scary,” said Pantoja.

So he joined about 60 others at this Lake City Neighborhood Alliance meeting Thursday night.  All the key players sat at the table, including Brad Finegood, the co-chairman of the King County Heroin & Opioid Task Force.

“I have a sibling that died of opioid disorder,” said Finegood.

He said safe consumption sites where users can shoot up, snort, and smoke their drug of choice could save lives.

“People dying and shooting up in an alley alone -- it creates a safety hazard, it creates a public health hazard,” said Finegood.

But still the county is giving no concrete answers about how much the sites will cost or exactly where they could go.

Jalair Box, with ‘Speak out Seattle’, is against having safe consumption sites anywhere.

“The drug consumption sites are illegal by federal law and we’re getting ourselves into an expensive experiment,” said Box.

She said taxpayer dollars would be better spent on Naloxone or Narcan -- the drugs that can stop an opioid overdose and keep someone alive. Money should be spent on those instead of giving addicts a place to use, she said.

She also suggests the county “…increase detox and treatment facilities."

Pantoja has mixed emotions, but ultimately he says he supports the consumption sites under certain conditions.

“As long as the person who’s using the site has a true opportunity to get well, at least get a seed in the head, and the resources are not false promises but for real, I would be for it,” said Pantoja.

Some of the people there Thursday night said they feel like they’ve been left out of the decision-making process and fear the county has already made plans but hasn’t shared them with the public.

But Finegood says that isn’t true. He said he’s looking forward to more community forums to discuss the topic.