Seattle Officials Move to Open First-Ever Safe Consumption Sites for Drug Users in the US

Seattle and King County are working on establishing not one, but two, safe injection sites where people can use drugs—including heroin—in a medically supervised environment.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced last Friday (Jan. 27) that the county’s public health authority is now working to implement two safe consumption sites—one in Seattle and one elsewhere in King County, outside of the city.

Last year, the county’s Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force presented a list of recommendations for how to best address the region’s heroin and prescription opioid problem. Like so many other American cities, Seattle is grappling with record high overdoses and rising homelessness.

“Because we need an aggressive, comprehensive approach to this crisis, I strongly support implementing the recommendations of the Task Force,” said Murray in a statement, “including expanding treatment options such as greater access to buprenorphine, increasing the life-saving use of naloxone” and creating the two safe consumption sites (also known as supervised injection facilities).

In 2015, 132 people died of heroin overdose in King County, according to the Seattle Times. That number rises to 209 when prescription opioids (OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin) are taken into account. “The crisis is growing beyond anything we have seen before,” said Murray. “We can do something about that.”

The goal of the safe consumption sites is harm reduction: to get drug users and dirty needles off the streets, and stop the sharing of dirty needles and thus the spread of HIV and hepatitis. And—not to mention—death.