Seattle officials are moving forward with a controversial plan for what would be the nation’s first supervised heroin-injection clinics — government-financed shooting galleries that supporters say can save lives but that critics say will only enable drug users, reports the Los Angeles Times. A new 99-page task force study envisions at least two safe-use facilities — one in Seattle, another in the suburbs — where heroin addicts can legally take narcotics while being monitored by medical personnel who can administer aid or call 911 if needed. The project is modeled after North America’s first supervised heroin haven, InSite, a government-funded injection facility in Vancouver, Canada, which in 13 years of operation has never had an overdose fatality, officials there say.
That success has inspired other cities — including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland — to consider government-approved safe sites for addicts to inject heroin. But Seattle is moving fastest, convinced there is “urgent need for action,” as the new study puts it. “For me personally, what has worked,” says Seattle social worker Thea Oliphant-Wells, a task force member and recovering heroin addict for 11 years, “was to have harm-reduction folks engaging me long before I was ready to change my drug-abuse behavior. I promise you, when you give people the opportunity to get better, they will.”