King County, Wa., is moving closer to opening at least two public sites where drug users can inject heroin under supervision, reports the Seattle Times. The county’s Board of Health voted unanimously yesterday to endorse the sites, which would be the first of their kind in the nation. A task force, made up of experts on heroin and opioid abuse, recommended the supervised injection sites as a way to reduce the wave of overdose deaths that has wracked Seattle and King County in recent years. Yesterday’s vote is an endorsement of the task force’s recommendations, which go beyond the injection sites, calling for increased opioid treatment and prevention programs. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine are expected to weigh in with a decision on the sites in the next several weeks. Both have supported the sites in the past.
Murray said he’d support them if they could be established “in a way that reduces the negative impacts” on neighborhoods, and Constantine said he’d be supportive “regardless of the political discomfort” if the sites saved lives. No specific locations have been publicly identified. Supporters say the sites would reduce overdose deaths and public drug use, meaning fewer used needles littering sidewalks. The sites also would be a place where users could access health care, long-term treatment ,and other social services. The sites were endorsed by King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, who said that health care, not criminal justice, should play the primary role in addressing the opioid crisis.