Bellevue bans safe-injection sites for heroin users

Bellevue voted to ban safe injection sites, although none has been proposed for King County’s second-largest city. The prospect of hosting an injection site is causing political ripples across the county, and resistance seems to have stalled the sites.

Bellevue banned safe-injection sites for heroin users Monday although none has been proposed for King County’s second-largest city and it’s highly unlikely one would be.

The controversial sites endorsed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine appear to have stalled, even as they ripple through local politics.

The unanimous Bellevue City Council vote was driven, said Mayor John Stokes, by concerns that a safe-injection site could hinder the development of the city’s first year-round homeless shelter.

Shelter opponents have suggested an injection site might be located on county property next to a shelter proposed for the Eastgate neighborhood, Stokes said. “We really need to get this shelter located,” the mayor said. Rumors of a nearby injection facility “impedes discussion of the homeless shelter.”

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The Metropolitan King County Council voted last month not to spend any money on establishing injection sites unless a city’s elected officials explicitly approved hosting one.

That budget proviso “essentially kills a safe-consumption site anywhere but in Seattle,” said Kris Nyrop, a drug-policy researcher in Seattle for two decades and an outreach worker with the Public Defender Association.

A site wouldn’t even be allowed in Seattle under Initiative 27, which proposes a countywide vote to ban the facilities. King County elections officials have just started validating I-27 signatures, according to a spokeswoman.

If it qualifies, the initiative likely would land on the February ballot as it’s too late to make the November ballot under state law.

Resistance seems to have slowed, if not derailed progress on the sites recommended last year by a city-county task force.

Public-health officials

The task force, led by public-health officials, had come up with a 99-page report last September detailing a comprehensive response to the region’s opioid crisis. In 2015, 229 deaths in King County were attributed to heroin and prescription opioid overdoses.

The task force called for more access to treatment with the medication buprenorphine, more prevention efforts…

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