April 25, 2018
Dear Mayor Durkan,
We write today to express our support for your ongoing effort to address the tragic opioid crisis in Seattle, including creating a safe consumption space (SCS) program in the city.
The Yes to SCS coalition includes over 35 human service, criminal justice reform, and community organizations, as well as more than 1,000 Seattle and King County residents – many of whom have lost loved ones to overdose – who believe that SCSs are an important part of the solution to public drug use in our city. New members join the coalition every week, we are active in our communities and on social media, and are committed to doing everything possible to make sure that Seattle’s first SCS becomes a reality.
While the Seattle City Council included $1.3 million in funding for the creation of an SCS prior to your taking office, your election felt like a rallying cry for many of us who had grown concerned that bureaucracy might slow the momentum we have previously seen in support of an SCS. Allies in the Seattle City and King County Councils have felt invigorated by your strong support for addressing this issue on the campaign trail. We do as well.
We need your leadership, your guidance, and your commitment to keep this initiative moving forward. We can’t afford to wait.
We don’t need more data. Last year, overdose death killed more Americans than in the entire 20 years of the Vietnam war. In King County, more than 300 residents are dying each year. SCSs have been saving lives around the world for over 30 years. There are now more than 100 sites worldwide. There have been millions of injections at these sites and zero overdose deaths.
We don’t need an extended process before opening an initial site. The King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force (Task Force) and community advocates have conducted broad community outreach over the last two years. A series of community meetings were held in order to provide public education about heroin and opioid addiction, treatment and health services, and to obtain input as the Task Force developed strategies and meaningful solutions to the problem of addiction and overdose in King County. There have also been numerous public hearings on the topic of SCS and its funding in the Seattle City Council, King County Council, and King County Board of Health. This work need not be duplicated. In addition, the Yes to SCS coalition has been active and organized over the last two years and has engaged in an extensive public education effort around the benefits of opening an SCS site.
We don’t need more analysis. The Task Force report, completed in September 2016, provided recommended guidelines for planning, implementing, and operating SCSs. These resources provide detailed criteria for where a SCS should be sited. At a minimum, the SCS should be at an overdose hotspot, where existing services are available, and where there is community engagement. The Task Force recommended a fixed site for the pilot SCS, but all options should be considered and perfection should not be made the enemy of the good.
We do need action. Every day that we wait, the opioid epidemic rages and people die from preventable opioid overdoses at staggering rates. We need strong local leadership to implement the recommendations of the Task Force and to uphold Public Health’s obligation to implement effective interventions. SCS planning must be accelerated and implemented with an urgency matching the problems this strategy is meant to help address.
We ask for your strong commitment to operationalizing the recommendation for an SCS in Seattle. The time is now.
Public Defender Association
ACLU of Washington
Plymouth Housing Group
Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC)
Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH)
Hepatitis Education Project
Evergreen Treatment Services (ETS)
Luis Fernando Ramirez
Barbara Ebert, CPA
BABES Network - YWCA
Incarcerated Mothers Advocacy Project (IMAP)
Capitol Hill Community Council
Gender Justice League (GJL)
Be: Seattle Organization