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Bellevue may ban safe injection sites before they open

Safe injection sites in King County would be stocked with naloxone, a drug used to treat narcotic overdoses in an emergency
Flickr Photo/Jeff Anderson (CC BY 2.0)/
Safe injection sites in King County would be stocked with naloxone, a drug used to treat narcotic overdoses in an emergency

Bellevue could become one of the first places in King County to impose a ban on supervised injection sites for drug users.

During an extended study session Monday, the Bellevue City Council directed its staff to write a resolution clarifying the city’s position on the clinics (session agenda here). The council could vote on the measure as soon at August 7.

Safe injection sites are medically-supervised facilities where drug users can inject heroin or other narcotics without fear of being arrested. King County officials, including Executive Dow Constantine, have approved preliminary plans to open two of them in King County.

Bellevue Mayor John Stokes says he thinks the concept behind supervised injection sites has potential, but Bellevue is not the best place to locate one.

Stokes: "Our sense is this is not where the greater need is. There is greater need in other parts of the county and Seattle. That's where they're going to go, and at this point we just want to say we don't want them here, and we'll just see what happens down the line."

The city of Bellevue is working to open a permanent homeless shelter for men, and the issue has been controversial in the community. Stokes says he wants the city to stay focused on finding a site for a homeless shelter, and that supervised injection sites would be a distraction.

Stokes: "It's one of those things where it's no use having people in the community upset about this, and having negative feelings when we're trying to work on really doing a good job of siting the men's shelter."

Seattle is the only community in King County that has approved the sites within city limits. The King County Council recently voted to only finance safe injection sites in cities that have voted to approve them. That could rule out cities that vote to ban them outright, and cities that don’t take a stance. The Auburn City Council has already approved a resolution to oppose the facilities.

Opponents of safe injection sites are pushing a ballot initiative that would prohibit the sites countywide, and this week submitted public signatures to put the initiative on the November or February ballot.

Correction 07/26/2017: Corrected to reflect that while Bellevue's City Council is considering a ban, Auburn's City Council has already voted to oppose safe injection sites.