It’s been less than a month since it was filed, but the initiative to ban safe injection sites in King County is nearly halfway to its goal.
“We’ve had over 600 volunteers reach out to us and collect signatures,” said initiative sponsor Joshua Freed. “Today, we’re at 20,953 signatures. Our required goal is 47,443 by July 31. So, we are very well on our way.”
Freed is a member of the Bothell City Council, but says he’s filed I-27 as a private, concerned citizen.
“This is certainly an epidemic,” Freed said. “It’s not just something that impacts downtown Seattle — 75 percent of overdoses actually happen in suburban neighborhoods.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine is proposing a plan to open two safe injection sites, one in Seattle and one elsewhere in the county.
Freed is concerned that millions of dollars will be spent on an effort that has not been proven effective. He used the safe injection site in Vancouver B.C. as an example.
“Since they opened their site in 2003, drug deaths have gone from 190 people per year to 931 in 2016,” he said. “That’s a 490 percent increase in illicit drug deaths. Clearly the B.C. model is not working. It’s not something we should be doing here in King County.”
Safe injection sites alternative
Rather than safe injection sites, Freed would like to see the money invested in proven treatment programs. He would also like to see the county focused on working with doctors to keep them from prescribing the opiate-based pain killers that can lead to heroin addiction.
The very first petition signature for I-27, according to Freed, was a woman whose brother recently died from drug use. After 20 years on heroin, he told her from his death bed that safe injection sites are a bad idea.
“Heroin injection sites just allow people to continue to use heroin, rather than saying, ‘No. The right path for you is to get into treatment,'” Freed said. “That’s what we should be doing as a society. That’s caring for the user.”
If they get enough signatures, Initiative 27 will be on the King County ballot in November. You can learn more about King County’s safe injection plan at safekingcounty.org.