SEATTLE -- The newly formed Seattle-King County heroin task force is considering a safe heroin injection site as one way to address the growing heroin crisis in Washington State.
The task force is trying to find ways to expand treatment for heroin addicts amidst what health officials call an epidemic.
Insite, North America's first supervised heroin injection site, located in Vancouver B.C., is seen by some on the task force as a progressive step forward in the fight against overdoses. It aims to to prevent fatal overdoses by providing supervised injection sites where addicts can use the illegal narcotic under the watch of medical professionals. If they start to overdose, workers can administer naloxone to reverse the process. The users would also receive services and counseling.
Since it's inception, Insite has not recorded one fatal overdose and says overdoses decreased by 9% throughout the city of Vancouver.
The idea of a first of its kind safe-injection site in Seattle has even the most unlikely people listening.
"I'm keeping an open mind," said King County Sheriff John Urquhart. Before becoming sheriff, Urquhart was a 25-year soldier of the war on drugs as a narcotics detective. But the sheriff says there is no way to arrest his way out of the heroin problem, so he is open to ideas like safe-injection sites.
"The status quo is not working anymore," Urquhart said. "This is not really a police issue anymore. More cleaner needles, reduction of Hepatitis, all of these things, I'm told have happened in Vancouver. I want to make sure we can replicate that here before I have support for this kind of a program."
Dr. Caleb Banta-Green, Affiliate Associate Professor of Health Services at UW says the idea is one way to expand treatmentfor users who would be using heroin with or without a safe-injection site.
"This isn't creating any more drug users it's not making drug use easier," he said. "This is actually trying to get them stable and safer to get them on a pathway to make it safer to get them on a pathway to decreasing or stopping their use eventually."