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Seattle planned safe injection site needs another $2.5M in funding


Plans for safe injection site in Seattle may be moving forward, but as of now, the city is in need of more money to fund the project.

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“As of this writing, there continues to be insufficient County funds appropriated to both pay for the operating activities of a (safe injection site) and deliver the critical behavioral health services needed by King County residents,” interim Seattle Human Services Director Jason Johnson said in a recent memo to the Seattle City Council.

The city’s current plan would establish a single Community Health Engagement Location (CHEL) in a mobile vehicle, offering seven-day-a-week, 10 hour-a-day operations.

Services for that site would include medication-assisted on-site treatment (and other various medical services), a syringe exchange, HIV/HCV screenings, social services, drug and alcohol assessments, case management, and linkages to social services for legal and housing assistance.

The City of Seattle has already put $1.4 million in to cover “one-time costs associated with establishing a CHEL,” according to Johnson’s memo. King County also pitched in $500,000 to cover the cost of the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency tax that allows the purchase of the vehicle Seattle plans on using for its site.

That money still doesn’t cover an estimated $2.5 million annual operating cost for a CHEL, that currently has yet to be allocated by either the City of Seattle or King County.

“We will continue to work on securing funding and will work with the Mayor, the County, and advocates, but we should move forward with a scalable effort to save lives today,” said Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. “Doing nothing is not an option.”

Meanwhile, the city is keeping an eye on a lawsuit in Philadelphia, where federal prosecutors are going after Safehouse, a nonprofit trying to open a safe injection site in the City of Brotherly Love. The civil lawsuit is a joint case between Pennsylvania-based prosecutors and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The City of Seattle is closely watching the progress of this lawsuit, and working with City Attorney’s Office to consider all of our legal options,” Johnson’s memo reads.

That lawsuit marks the first time the federal government has ever litigated against safe injection sites, making for a precedent — and possibly a warning — for cities like Seattle.

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