‘Safe injection sites’ are not the answer to our heroin problem | Guest Editorial

  • Thursday, June 29, 2017 5:10pm
  • Opinion

David Carson

By David Carson

I’ve seen the future of opioids. It’s Vancouver, B.C. and it’s not pretty. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray have a proposal to open two so-called “safe injection sites” to save people from certain slow or sudden death from abusing heroin, meth and other illicit drugs.

The idea is to create a place where addicts can come and administer drugs with health professionals standing by with Naloxone/Narcan if an overdose or bad reaction occurs. This supposes that addicts will go out of their way to use the facility when they want to get high. It also relies on IV drug users making the conscious decision to use the facility if they live on the streets nearby (which many do). This might seem logical and rational to Seattle’s far left politicians, but I can tell you that this is not the reality. Addicts are less concerned with safety and their own mortality than where and when their next high will happen.

On June 17, I drove to Vancouver, B.C. to witness the impact of North America’s only facility of its kind for myself. It was worse than I had imagined. I have told folks of my experience and put it in terms that longer-term residents of the Puget Sound can easily understand. Think about the time you went to a ‘Hawks or Mariners game or had need to visit the King County Courthouse and were in the Pioneer Square neighborhood and there were homeless folks, addicts and the mentally ill all around. Now, multiply the population and severity by 10 or 15 times and that’s what you’ll experience on Hastings Street East in downtown Vancouver.

It was gut-wrenching and heart-breaking at the same time. It looked like a war zone. There were drug-addled, glassy-eyed people strewn about. One man was laying shoeless and lifeless on his side on the cold sidewalk; I honestly couldn’t tell if he was alive or not; I couldn’t bear to take a picture of him though I realize in hindsight how impactful it would have been. There were electronics like radios, cameras and car chargers (quite likely from smash and dash break-ins of cars) for sale and there was active drug dealing going on in plain sight. Once the decision to allow open use of drugs has been made, the open selling of drugs will follow.

Early in our visit, while walking down a littered and graffiti-covered alley not 100 feet from Insite the “safe injection” facility, I witnessed two users actively shooting up and one was still mid-dose when a Vancouver Police Department cruiser rolled through. This was a 20-something young person who just turned away from the officers and continued shooting up. He didn’t seem overly concerned with being arrested and the officers later admitted that he was in no such danger because police have been neutered by politicians in enforcing British Columbia’s drug laws. They explained that they’re just there to “keep the peace” and make sure order, such as it is, is maintained. It was the most depraved scene I’ve witnessed in person.

It’s difficult to see how enabling addicts to continue a terribly destructive lifestyle is compassionate. Every recovering addict will tell you that they had to hit rock bottom before they wanted to change and that desire must drive their recovery. By normalizing illegal and destructive behavior like this, we are not helping, rather we’re dooming them to a life without the prospect of help and rehabilitation.

If this hasn’t convinced you that this is a bad idea, just look at the results they’re seeing in Vancouver. In 2003 when this facility opened, Vancouver was experiencing somewhere between 200-300 drug-induced deaths per year. They’re on pace to surpass 2016’s drug-induced death total of more than 900 people.

If you’re still unconvinced, take a two-hour trip to Vancouver and see it for yourself like I did. This is the future unless you do something to prevent it. This idea has not worked in British Columbia and the additional risk our leaders would put taxpayers at, if there is a fatality at the facility, would be enormous.

Despite the King County Council’s recent move to only allow “safe injection sites” located in cities whose leadership approves them, this remains a terrible idea and what’s visited on Seattle will trickle down to Tacoma, the Eastside and the south county cities. There is a grassroots effort to rebuff Murray and Constantine’s proposal to open any of these sites in King County. Initiative 27 should appear on your November ballot if enough signatures are gathered by July 30.

The ballot measure is as simply worded as an initiative could be:

Shall supervised drug consumption sites for Schedule I controlled substances (RCW 69.50.204), including heroin but excluding marijuana, be unlawful in King County?

I-27 would prohibit such sites from being established and protect the taxpayer by forbidding public financing of drug consumption sites. It will also protect addicts from the feel-good but destructive policies of Seattle’s political class. We need policies to help get treatment for those who are addicted and/or mentally ill, not policies that will simply enable this deadly lifestyle.

Visit www.SafeKingCounty.org for information on the issue, to get a petition or donate to the campaign.

David Carson is a Redmond City Council member, Position 7.

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