Seattle Mayor Impressed by Visit to Safe Drug Site in Vancouver, B.C.

Murray: ‘The first thing that stood out was the number of lives they’ve saved.’

Front entrance to Insite in Vancouver, B.C. Photo via Vancouver Coastal Health.

Will Seattle get safe drug sites? It’s looking more and more like the answer is yes.

Last month, a heroin task force recommended that Seattle and King County each install a pilot clinic where drug users can inject, smoke or snort under medical supervision, with counselors and social services available to anyone who wants them. “I believe we should have these sites,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said at the time.

Yesterday, Murray further signalled his approval of a Seattle safe drug site in a press release commending Insite, a safe injection-drug site in Vancouver, B.C. Murray visited Vancouver about two weeks ago.

“The first thing that stood out” about Insite, he said in a press release last night, “was the number of lives they’ve saved; some 5,000 overdoses have occurred at Insite since its inception [in 2003] and yet there has not been a single fatality to date. This success in keeping people alive means that the public health teams in Vancouver then have the opportunity to help people move into treatment as part of the continuum of care for people with substance abuse disorders.”

Many observers have noted that Insite works in part because Vancouver’s drug activity is mostly concentrated into one neighborhood, Downtown Eastside. Seattle, Murray noted, will likely need a “more distributed model recommended for our area,” in which drug activity is scattered, not centralized. Murray also praised “the low-tech efficiency in how it was run and respect for space, staff and each other among users; and the operational tie-in with the public health services in Vancouver, which enables the facility to maintain its existence despite political changes.”

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