Pubdate: Mon, 21 Aug 2017
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Copyright: 2017 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Contact: P.O. Box 1909, Seattle, WA 98111-1909


US: Connelly: Lawsuit seeks to block King County vote on safe injection 
sites -

Found: Tue Aug 22 14:21:02 2017 PDT
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Copyright: 2017 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Author: Joel Connelly


A lawsuit was filed Monday, challenging and seeking to block a public
vote on Initiative 27, which seeks to outlaw the opening of supervised
consumption spaces, health facilities where people use drugs in a safe
environment with access to treatment.

The lawsuit, by a new organization called Protect Public Health,
argues that public health policy is not subject to and up or down vote
by citizen initiative.

If successful, "I-27 would set a dangerous precedent for public
health: Supervised consumption spaces are an essential tool in
fighting the opiate epidemic," said Dr. Bob Woods, director of the
HIV/AIDS program at Public Health-Seattle & King County from 1986 to

"If I-27 succeeds, other public health policies could be at risk,
including vaccination requirements, needle exchange programs, or even
efforts to combat sexually transmitted diseases."

Bill Bryant, the 2016 Republican nominee for Governor, watched the
King County Council grapple with the issue on Monday, and offered a
far different opinion. He sought to testify in favor of a public vote
in November, but the Council refused to take testimony.

If he had been able to speak, said Bryant, "I would have cautioned the
Council that far too many people in King County believe the county's
elections and politics are rigged against them, that it doesn't matter
what voters do, politicians will do what they want."

Almost 70,000 people signed petitions calling for a vote on supervised
consumption sites, or safe injection sites as they are known in Canada.

Vancouver began North America's first supervised injection site about
15 years ago..

City, provincial and law enforcement officials rose in defense of the
site when the government of former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen
Harper sought to have it shut down. Ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani,
in British Columbia on the lecture circuit, slammed the injection site.

A unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada kept the injection
site open. The site "has been proven to save lives," ruled the court,
"with no discernible impact on the public safety."

The King County Council has until August 24 to put I-27 on the
November ballot, but on Monday adopted a tactic that would delay a
public vote into next year.

"The lawsuit claiming the public has no voice over their own
community's health policy will further alienate people," said Bryant.
"Our community needs to have a conversation about the effectiveness of
safe injection sites. The people want this conversation and want a
voice in the decision-making."

Bryant is an opponent of safe injection sites.

The Protect Public Health group filed its complaint with King County
Superior Court, and argued that health professionals know best.

"Unlike the board of health and the county council, voters are in no
position to weigh the scientific evidence or understand the impact of
vetoing part of a multi-prong response to a local public health
crisis," the group argued in the complaint. "That is why state law is
clear that local public health decisions are not made by

The King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force,
in a report last fall, recommended that two pilot injection sites be
opened, one in the city and the other in the county, to address the
opioid epidemic.

The recommendation has spurred a reaction. Auburn, Bellevue, Federal
Way and Renton have said they will not permit an injection site inside
their cities.

Protect Public Health cited supporters whose lives and families have
been impacted by the opioid crisis.

"My family knows much too well that people who die never have another
chance. They never get to recover," said Michael Roberts, who lost his
daughter Amber to a heroin overdose. "I never want another parent to
suffer the loss of a child. Supervised consumption spaces ave lives.
Treatment is of paramount importance, but we need to keep people alive
if they are ever going to get there."

Turina James, in recovery from opiate addition, was quoted as saying:
"I-27 is the wrong approach because it forces people into unsupervised
injection spaces such as bathrooms and alleys."

There were 332 overdoses in King County last year, 70 percent
involving opioids.
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