Work toward Seattle’s safe injection site slows as court case continues

SEATTLE — A safe injection site will likely not come to your Seattle neighborhood anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean city officials are giving up hope.

A memo sent from Seattle’s Department of Human Services to the city council this month details the city’s status in setting up a safe injection sites. The letter describes a few roadblocks, such as ongoing federal lawsuits and potential funding problems.

Safe injections sites allow drug users to inject heroin in a controlled environment that would be staffed with medical professionals. There would also be outreach to patients and treatment options available.

The city is paying close attention to a lawsuit filed by the federal government against a Philadelphia nonprofit organization which hoped to set up a safe injection site. The lawsuit alleges the facilities are a violation of the Controlled Substance Act.

“The City of Seattle is closely watching the progress of this lawsuit,” the city’s memo reads, “and working with our City Attorney’s Office to consider all of our legal options, including potentially filing an amicus brief in the Philadelphia case or other litigation.”

The city also appears concerned about the continued cost of a site.  A one-time allocation of $1.4 million was established with the city when the idea was proposed. King County added $500,000. However, there are not enough funds immediately available to develop and operate a program on an ongoing basis at the recommended level, a city spokesperson said.

Still, the city is continuing to work with King County and other partners on a site while keeping an eye on the federal courts, the spokesperson said.

Many area cities including, including Federal Way, Bellevue, Auburn and Renton, have passed measures to ban safe injection sites.

Q13 hosted a five-part debate about safe injection sites in October 2017. You can watch the first part of the debate below. The full series can be found on our website.

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