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Washington senator pushes to end safe injection sites statewide

A safe injection site was set up in a Seattle park as part of a push for them in King County last year. (Josh Kerns, KIRO Radio)

A Washington lawmaker is working to prevent the heroin injection sites that have been supported by several leaders in the Seattle area.

On Tuesday, Sen. Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way) announced his attempt to ban sites that would allow people to legally inject heroin.

“We must stop the push for decriminalization of drugs,” he said. “Standing idly by while addicts abuse illegal drugs is not compassionate, and it does not solve the problem.”

The only safe site in North America is in Vancouver. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray visited the site last year, calling it “eye-opening.” Since the site, called Insite, opened, staff has tended to thousands of overdoses. KIRO 7 reports overdose deaths in the area around the site dropped by about 35 percent.

Since the visit, a Seattle City Council member went so far as to volunteer two sites in Seattle; one in Belltown and one in Lake City.

A KIRO 7 investigation found that overdoses in Seattle are on the rise.

Since 2014, Seattle Fire has responded to 2,677 overdoses.

“The number and the rate of heroin overdoses, non-fatal and fatal are clearly the highest in downtown Seattle. I know it’s underreported. Only half the time is 911 called,” University of Washington drug researcher Dr. Caleb Banta-Green told KIRO 7.

The majority of drug overdoses are heroin and about three-quarters of all fatal overdoses in King County involve an opiate of some kind, KIRO 7 reports.

Overdoses are overloading Seattle Fire and diverting crews from other emergencies, KIRO 7 reports. Each call costs at least $2,000, costing taxpayers millions since 2014.

But Miloscia says it is more important to focus on getting people treatment and off illegal drugs, not encouraging drug abuse.

He’s not alone.

In November, for example, Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said such a program risks attracting more addicts by giving them cover from the law.

“Isn’t it attracting people from all over the country? And what about your homeless population?” Troyer said. “I know from some of the cops I’ve talked to up there, most the homeless people they encounter on the streets aren’t from that area, but you’ve set it up for them pretty good.”

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