County Council Floats Ballot Alternative to Allow Pilot Supervised Consumption Sites

If passed, the alternative will go on the February ballot opposite a proposal to ban CHELs in King County.

A majority of the King County Council is supporting an ordinance which, if passed, would give county voters the option of saying yes to supervised consumption sites.

Earlier this year, opponents of safe-consumption sites collected enough signatures to put I-27 onto the February ballot. If passed by voters, it would ban Community Health Engagement Locations (CHELs), sites where people who use drugs can do so under medical supervision and with counselors standing by. A heroin/opioid task force recommended CHELs last year as one piece of a larger public health response to the current opioid abuse epidemic. There is a widespread consensus among public health experts that supervised drug consumption spaces save lives and taxpayer money. However, supporters of I-27 insist CHELs would actually compound the problems they have been shown to mitigate, such as public drug use, litter, and overdose fatalities.

Under the plan unveiled by county councilmembers Wednesday, the option of banning CHELs will still appear on the ballot; but alongside it will be an option to affirmatively allow pilot CHELs. From a Council press release: “If passed by voters, [the Council’s alternative] would authorize a three year pilot project during which a maximum of two CHELs could be operated in King County in hotspots of concentrated substance use and related overdoes. If this proposed alternative ordinance were adopted by the Council on Monday, it along with I-27 would be on the ballot, giving the voters a choice between I-27 and the Council’s alternative ordinance.”

The ordinance is sponsored by Jeanne Kohl-Welles, along with fellow councilmembers Joe McDermott and cosponsors Claudia Balducci, Rod Dembowski, and Larry Gossett—all Democrats, though the Council is formally nonpartisan. Republicans Kathy Lambert, Pete von Reichbauer and Reagan Dunn are not cosponsors, nor is Democrat Dave Upthegrove.

“Without an alternative on the ballot, the questions is, should CHEL sites be banned?” said McDermott via phone on Tuesday. As I-27 is written, he said, “The public doesn’t have a right to say they affirmatively support CHEL sites, to address what is truly a public health crisis…Placing this and an alternative on the ballot will really be the start of a broader conversation about opiate and heroin addiction in our community, and what are the best responses to address public safety and public health and keep people alive until they’re ready to seek treatment.” McDermott said he doesn’t want to speak for the four councilmembers who didn’t sponsor the alternative, but is hopeful they will come on board before a vote next week. “Five sponsors doesn’t mean I don’t pass it with nine votes on Monday,” he said.

I-27 is currently the subject of a lawsuit which claims that it illegally exceeds the scope of a ballot measure’s authority by impinging on the authority of county public health experts. That lawsuit could end in the termination of I-27, which could render Council’s alternative moot.

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

Washington State Capitol Building. Photo by Emma Epperly/WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Legislation targets rape kit backlog

WA has about 10,000 untested kits; new law would reduce testing time to 45 days

Two Issaquah High School students are under investigation after a racially insensitive photo surfaced over the weekend. Courtesy photo
Racially insensitive sign sparks investigation in Issaquah

High school students under investigation after Tolo photo goes viral.

Snohomish family detained by Border Patrol while on vacation

Little information has been provided since they were arrested Thursday near Tucson, Arizona.

Yaaah! Hipster Gregr of ‘Nerd Talk’ escapes city life

The morning host of radio station 107.7 The End has traded the Seattle vibe for Snohomish living.

Price of renovated Seattle arena soars to over $900 million

But Tod Leiweke says the privately financed venue will be “one of the finest buildings in the country.”

Walkers rest amid the trees at Island Center Forest on Vashon Island, which is part of King County. Many trees around Western Washington are struggling, including Western hemlock on Vashon, likely from drought stress. Photo by Susie Fitzhugh
King County forests are facing new challenges

Hot, dry summers are stressing native tree species in Western Washington.

Yoga for horses exists, and it’s exactly what you think it is

A Snohomish-area veterinarian teaches equine stretches important to health and performance.

Heading north after leaving the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, the light rail track will cross to the west side of I-5. Trees on both sides of the highway here will be heavily impacted by the buildout. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)
To make room for light rail, 5,300 trees will fall along I-5

Sound Transit expects to start clearing in late April and eventually replant more than 20,000 trees.

Jim Pitts stands on walkway overlooking filtration chambers at the King County South Treatment Plant in Renton. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Human waste: Unlikely climate change hero?

King County treatment plant joins effort to counteract effects of carbon dioxide.

Most Read