Editor’s note: A previous version of this article said that East Bellevue Community Council member Gerald Hughes was not in attendance at the December meeting. Hughes was in attendance, however, he resigned his position in November. The Reporter strives for accuracy and regrets the error.
The East Bellevue Community Council voted to ban community health engagement locations, also known as safe injection sites, at its monthly council meeting Tuesday.
In a 4-0 vote, the Community Council approved the Bellevue City Council’s Ordinance No. 6376, which permanently banned the sites this past October.
Ordinance No. 6376, the permanent measure, amends Bellevue’s land-use code to impose a prohibition on the sites, locations or other uses or activities designed to provide a location for people to consume illicit drugs intravenously or by other means, throughout the city.
Vice Chair Steve Kasner said approximately 50-60 people attended the meeting. About three were in favor of safe injection sites because they believed the locations would help those who are addicted to opioids. But 20-30 were against them, as they said they thought the implementation of safe injection sites would be a magnet for crime, Kasner said.
To show support for the ban, people representing Initiative 27, a push to ban safe injection sites countywide, and the Seattle Alliance of Safe Neighborhoods wore red scarfs to the meeting.
The recommendation for community health engagement locations, or safe injection sites, came from a King County Heroin and Opioid Task Force in 2016. It was one of seven recommendations to develop a comprehensive strategy to focus on preventing addiction and increasing access to addiction treatment.
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.
The county recommended a community health engagement location in Seattle and another in the county, however, officials noted city councils would have the opportunity to approve or ban them.
The East Bellevue Community Council is usually comprised of five members, however, Community Councilmember Gerald Hughes resigned in November. The position is being left vacant until the council is sworn in at their next meeting.
The next East Bellevue Community Council meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9 at the Lake Hills Clubhouse, 15230 Lake Hills Blvd., Bellevue.