VOCAL Washington, a group of activists concerned with drugs, homelessness, and mass incarceration, has spearheaded the push for safe drug sites in Seattle (as opposed to unsafe drug sites, like the alleys and public bathrooms where poor people currently ingest illicit drugs). With our city, and country, in the midst of a staggering heroin and opioid epidemic, the argument for harm-reducing drug policies is a compelling one.
From our previous reporting on safe injection sites:
Safe injection sites … are spaces where intravenous drug users can shoot up under the supervision of trained nurses and counselors. Vancouver, British Columbia, has had one called InSite since 2003, and it works. A 2011 study published in the English medical journal The Lancet found that after InSite set up shop, illicit drug overdoses within half a kilometer dropped by more than a third.
According to a 2009 report summarizing various scientific evaluations, InSite also reduced public injecting, lowered syringe sharing, and increased participation in addiction treatment—all without any discernible negative side effects. At least three different evaluations have each concluded that the facility saves taxpayers money in the long run—as much as four-fifths of what they would have paid, sans InSite, for downstream crisis services like police and ER doctors.
InSite’s website brags: “Although there have been 1,418 overdoses at InSite between 2004 and 2010, staff were able to successfully intervene each time. There has never been a fatality at InSite.”
By comparison, 314 Washingtonians died from drug overdoses in 2014.
The evidence has been in for a long time: safe drug sites work, both at reducing public health harms to drug users and public nuisance to everyone else.
But seeing is believing. And today you—yes, you—can physically inhabit a mock safe drug site, and then decide whether it would be better or worse than someone shooting heroin with a dirty needle in the alley behind your apartment. When you make that decision, consider what Liz Evans of InSite said when she visited Seattle earlier this year:
While people feel uncomfortable around deciding [whether to allow safe drug sites], people are dying. Like, right now. All over [the] US, all over the world. And drug users are living like shit—like their lives don’t matter—because we have adopted a mindset about who they are as citizens…based on lies about drugs. So, first of all, I think the most important thing that needs to be done is for people to separate out the mythology around what drugs are doing to people and what the War on Drugs is doing to people, because they’re two very different things.
Here’s the schedule:
July 14 — 12 – 7 p.m. — Westlake Park
July 15 — 12 – 7 p.m. — Victor Steinbrueck Park
July 16 — 12 – 7 p.m. — Bell Street Park
JUly 17 — 12 – 7 p.m. — OLYMPIA (5th and Franklin)
July 18 — 12 – 7 p.m. — Cal Anderson Park
July 19 — 12 – 2 p.m. — City Hall Park (3rd and Yesler)
July 19 — 6 – 9 p.m. — 12th Ave Arts (with film screening and panel)