Safe injection sites – areas that allow heroin users to shoot up – could be banned in Bellevue.
The Bellevue City Council will consider the ban at its next council meeting Aug. 7.
Although King County has not indicated a Community Health Engagement Location, the official name for injection sites, will come to Bellevue, the Bellevue Council decided to get ahead of the game at its July 24 extended study session. At the session, the council was clear on their wish to ban the sites throughout the city and directed city staff to work on options to accomplish this.
Brad Harwood, deputy communications officer for the city, said those options will be presented at the Aug. 7 council meeting. Also at that time, council members could take formal action, he said.
King County’s Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force recommended a comprehensive strategy in January to tackle the nationwide opioid epidemic here in King County. Of the eight recommendations was the implementation of two Community Health Engagement Locations – one in Seattle and another in a different part of King County. The location of the second site is still undetermined.
According to the county, more people in King County now enter detox for heroin than they do for alcohol. The safe injection sites are intended to reduce drug-related deaths and health risks by preventing overdoses, the transmission of viral infections, such as HIV and hepatitis C, and provide access to treatment and social services. The sites would also, in theory, improve public safety by reducing the frequency people use in public.
At the extended study session, Councilmember Jennifer Robertson said she didn’t want “any lack of clarity on how deeply the city of Bellevue rejects the siting of one of these in our borders.”
Whether it’s a resolution or ordinance, she said safe injection sites shouldn’t be in the city “not now, not ever, not in any zone in Bellevue,” as the use of injectable drugs is illegal under state and federal law.
Councilmembers Conrad Lee and Kevin Wallace agreed the city should take a strong position.
“This is not because we think it’s illegal,” Wallace said. “King County just passed a resolution that said they are planning to site these, they are going to fund the siting of these in cities where the council supports it.”
Near the end of June, the King County Council voted 6-3 against defunding the safe injection sites and instead voted 5-4 to limit the use of funds to establish the sites “only in cities whose elected leaders choose to locate these facilities in their communities.”
Deputy Mayor John Chelminiak clarified the city would have to pass a resolution saying they wanted a Community Health Engagement Location within city borders before it became a reality. But he said he didn’t have a problem considering a resolution or ordinance on the ban, which would allow the community to provide input.
The latter option would allow people to talk to the council about it even though their minds are already made up, Chelminiak added.
And it’s not just Bellevue that’s against the injection sites.
Paid for by the IMPACtion action committee, a group called Safe King County seeks to pass Initiative 27, which would ban heroin injection sites countywide. Organizers of the initiative claim supervised drug consumption is “inconsistent with protecting citizens” or helping drug addicts. To learn more about Initiative 27, visit safekingcounty.org.
For more information on the Community Health Engagement Locations, visit www.kingcounty.gov.