We've all heard of needle exchange programs, but what if there was a program that took it even further? A place where addicts can take their drugs under medical supervision. The facilities exist in Europe and Canada but not here in the U.S. and one group is trying to change that.
It's a campaign that started about 6 months ago and the goal is just to educate people on the concept of supervised consumption. To illustrate what they're talking about, the group has set up a sort of tent-like structure at parks around Seattle.
Monday, they were at Cal Anderson Park with what they're calling the "Safe Shape" it helps people visualize how a supervised consumption facility operates. Those facilities offer supplies, a place to comfortably use the drugs in a sanitary way and a space where they can let the drug take effect and ride out their high while being medically supervised.
Those who use the facilities are also offered access to treatment, social services and medical help. Supporters say getting these people off the streets benefits everyone.
“Those people are using drugs in the city parks in business bathrooms, the questions is where do we want that drug use to happen?” Patricia Sully explained. “Would we rather have it in a safe place where we can prevent disease or would we rather have it in the public?”
Ashley Hempelmann is a recovering addict who is volunteering with the campaign “I've used in public bathrooms, alleys and cars; it's unsafe, it's scary it's unsanitary.” Hempelmann contracted Hepatitis C and wonders if she could have prevented getting the disease if there were places like this that she could use.
The group hopes the structure they're taking to local parks will get attention. “This is an iconic assertive bold claim about the need for providing these sorts of spaces,” Greg Scott said. Scott said the structure is meant to be a public health art exhibit.
They want to show how a facility can work and why it’s needed. “We've been policing it and that's only making matters worse at least from a public health perspective, so what do we do?” he said. “Are we enabling? Yes and no, I think we're enabling people to maintain a pulse.”
The group is setting up their structure at 12th Avenue Arts on Tuesday evening and will have a panel discussion to give people more information about the topic. The event starts at 6:00pm.