Why not at least talk about safe-injection sites for heroin users before banning them?

published on March 16, 2018 by Matt Driscoll in The News Tribune

I’m not certain supervised-injection sites make sense in Pierce County.

What I am certain of is the way we talk about them — or don’t talk about them, rather — isn’t helpful.

We’re in the grips of an epidemic. Nationally, roughly 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016 — the largest annual jump in U.S. history and a spike directly tied to the rise of opioids and synthetics like fentanyl.

Locally, there were 694 opioid-related deaths statewide in 2016, with 81 of those deaths coming in Pierce County

People are dying, too many of them, at numbers that now surpass the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Clearly, answers are needed — and new ones.

Still, in Pierce County and elsewhere — at least outside of Emerald City — any rational discussion of supervised-injection sites remains strictly off limits, tabled by the political minefield that surrounds them.

Soon, the Pierce County Council will take up a resolution that would prohibit supervised-injection sites throughout unincorporated parts of the county — even though no such sites have been proposed. Advocates like Jim McCune and Pam Roach view the move as preemptive.

If it’s successful, Pierce County would join a growing list of local jurisdictions that have moved to ban supervised-injection sites before they ever arrive, including Snohomish County, Federal Way, Auburn, Bellevue and Lynwood.

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