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'Safe injection' sites planned for drug users stir controversy, prompt petition

Published: Sunday, July 30, 2017 @ 2:40 AM
Updated: Sunday, July 30, 2017 @ 7:04 AM
By: John Knicely, KIRO7.com

Last week, the supporters behind Initiative 27 to ban "safe injection" sites for drug users in King County, Washington, turned in more than enough signatures to have the measure put on the ballot. They’re pushing for the King County Council to put it on the November ballot so voters can weigh in before two approved safe injection sites open.

>> Watch the news report here

The King County Board of Health unanimously approved the recommendations of an Opioid Task Force to open two sites in King County where users can take any drugs. The locations haven’t been determined, but the plan is to open them by the end of the year.

“This petition is not about shaming the user,” said Joshua Freed of IMPACtion, the political action group behind the initiative. “What's neat about this initiative process is it's non-partisan. It's an idea you can get behind.”

Freed says more than 1,000 volunteers helped collect signatures since May. They turned in 69,245 signatures to the King County Clerk on Monday, a week ahead of the July 31st deadline. To get on the ballot, 47,000 verified signatures are needed.

The safe injection sites would be similar to the one in Vancouver, B.C. KIRO-TV traveled north to see how they work. Read the full story here.

>> On KIRO7.com: As Seattle considers 'safe injection' sites, how does it work in BC?

People are allowed to use any drugs, no questions asked. Health professionals and outreach workers ensure there are no overdoses and provide services and counseling. King County Health Officials touted the idea in a Facebook live video in June.

“There have been zero, zero overdose deaths in any of these facilities worldwide,” said Brad Finegood of the Heroin Addiction Task Force.

Freed emphasizes that they agree with most of the recommendations from the King County Opioid Task Force, just not injection sites.

“We see that as a facility that is enabling and encouraging people to use opioids,” said Freed. “Let's spend that money on treatment. Let's get people into beds that need the help and interim treatment.”

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Once the signatures are validated, the King County Council has 90 days to take action. They could as a council pass the initiative as written. They could re-write it and have their re-written initiative and this initiative on the ballot. Or they could put it on the ballot as is. 

Initiative 27 would go on the November or February ballot, and its supporters are pushing for November.