Seattle mayor announces downtown revitalization plan to combat fentanyl
Apr 17, 2023, 1:34 PM | Updated: May 3, 2023, 11:29 am
Mayor Bruce Harrell announced his plan Monday to try and revitalize downtown Seattle, an area that has been plagued with public fentanyl use which some residents and business owners said is scaring people away.
“Essential to any long-term neighborhood revitalization is safety and health: The fentanyl crisis on our streets is causing death and disorder – we have an obligation to do more for those suffering from substance use issues and for all neighbors,” said Harrell.
The executive action includes a variety of measures to redirect those struggling with addiction into social services, prevent overdose deaths, and crack down on drug dealers. The plan will also work to beautify downtown with more storefronts, parks, and cleaning.
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“There are no quick fixes to this complicated challenge, but our Executive Order takes urgent steps to decrease trafficking of deadly drugs and to deliver new, innovative, and sustainable approaches to helping those suffering from substance use disorder,” the mayor said.
Fentanyl was responsible for the deaths of 708 people in King County, an average of 1.94 a day in 2022. Compared to that, as of March 15, 172 people in King County died of an overdose involving fentanyl, an average of 2.32 a day.
The changes announced by the mayor include an expansion of the Health One program to include an overdose response unit, a “contingency management” program that will work to keep overdose survivors clean, improve access to life-saving overdose prevention medication like Narcan, and explore funding for a post overdose diversion facility to support those in their steps to recovery.
Other steps to change downtown Seattle’s image will include 20 vacant storefronts being filled by the Seattle Restored program, reopening City Hall Park with new safety and activity programs, and hiring more Metropolitan Improvement District ambassadors to keep downtown clean.
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Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) estimates approximately 500 street-level businesses closed against roughly 300 new businesses opening in downtown Seattle.
“The Mayor is focused on the right issues. It is critical that we address the fentanyl crisis and its impacts,” DSA President & CEO Jon Scholes said. “We cannot recover as a community until we make substantial progress and treat this crisis like the emergency it has become.
“We also appreciate the mayor’s actions toward ensuring that downtown is clean and welcoming and the inclusion of additional investments in the Metropolitan Improvement District to enhance downtown’s vibrancy. The activation plan gets us going in the right direction,” Scholes continued.