Seattle council member hears good news on injection sites, runs with it

Jun 7, 2018, 1:40 PM | Updated: 2:03 pm

injection sites...

Teresa Mosqueda. (Seattle Channel)

(Seattle Channel)

When she heard that U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams came out in support safe consumption sites, Seattle Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda could hardly hold back her excitement.

RELATED: Seattle poised to spend $2 million on injection site

“Can you repeat that? The federal government…” she asked Jeffrey Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health, who alongside Jeff Sakuma, Seattle’s health integration strategist, was providing an update on drug overdose deaths in King County.

“It didn’t get a lot of press coverage,” Duchin told Mosqueda and the rest of the Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights Committee. “But U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, in a speech to the American College of Emergency Physicians in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago, endorsed that localities should have the option to use safe injection sites or supervised consumption facilities as part of a multi-pronged approach to fighting the opioid epidemic…”

“So that’s the federal government…” Mosqueda added in disbelief.

“Well, it’s the Surgeon General. He is part of the federal government. Doesn’t have a lot of authority.”

Then Sakuma chimed in.

“There was a subsequent statement, though, tracking back on that statement … I think. I believe that’s correct. If you go online, there was a bit of retraction of this statement.”

Duchin did not see that retraction.

“We can send you the news reports that covered it and Jeff, evidently, has a news report that it was retracted,” he said.

Sakuma said the specifics around the injection site was the piece U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams walked back on.

Mosqueda was ready to run with it.

“It would be helpful if you could find that reference. When you were mentioning that people were shaking their head as if they had not seen that. It sounds as if you, Jeff, have not seen it. I will take the good news that the U.S. Surgeon General has identified and endorsed safe consumption sites as one of many important prongs in our approach to address opioid addiction and overdose prevention,” she said.

Surgeon general and safe injection sites

It’s true, the Surgeon General’s statement wasn’t widely covered by the media. Maybe that’s because after he reportedly made that statement, a spokesperson for the Surgeon General made one important clarification to Modern Healthcare, the outlet cited by

The Administration and the Surgeon General do not support so-called “safe” injection sites as a means to combat the opioid epidemic and its consequences. In addition, there is no evidence to demonstrate that these illegal sites reduce drug use or significantly improve health outcomes for those with opioid use disorder. So-called “safe” injection sites lack the necessary scientific support to be considered a standardized evidence-based practice in the U.S.

So, yes, Surgeon General Jerome Adams supports some forms of addiction treatment. But, no, injection sites are not one of them.

The city and county are currently studying injection sites as they try to overcome the opioid epidemic and curb the alarming number of deaths happening. In 2016, King County formed an opioid task force that came up with eight recommendations to fight the crisis.

Since then, cities and counties have banned such sites. An effort to ban them in King County went to court, but was later prevented from making it on the ballot.

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