King County voters will get a chance to decide whether to ban proposed safe-injection sites for heroin and other drugs.
King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray have backed creation of two safe-injection sites — one in Seattle and another elsewhere in King County — following the recommendations of a task force they appointed last year to combat an increase in heroin and prescription opiate overdoses.
The Metropolitan King County Council will decide whether to place I-27 on the November ballot or put it off until February. Backers are pushing the council to authorize a November vote at its meeting Monday.
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“We are gratified to have finally cleared this hurdle and for I-27 to have officially qualified for the ballot. Voters deserve to have their say on government-sponsored heroin injection sites before Executive Constantine rushes to build them,” said Joshua Freed, chairman for the Safe King County campaign, which sponsored the initiative.
Some cities have already moved to ban the controversial sites on their own — including Bellevue, Federal Way, and Auburn.
The King County safe-injection sites would be the first such operations in the U.S., though a similar facility has operated in Vancouver, B.C., since 2003. The sites aim to reduce fatal overdoses and get drug users out of public alleys in favor of sites supervised by medical personnel who can encourage treatment options.
Drug-use deaths in King County hit a record high of 332 last year, with two-thirds caused by heroin and other opioids, according a report released this month by University of Washington researchers.
Opponents of safe-injection sites argue they amount to the government condoning heroin injection. State Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, a leading critic, has said the sites are a step toward legalization and decriminalization.
“We are losing control when we’re de-stigmatizing these dangerous drugs,” Miloscia said earlier this year. “We need to teach our children and promote not taking these dangerous drugs and stigmatize people who get hooked on drugs to get into treatment.”