Homelessness has increased by 19 percent in Seattle within the past year, and in 2014 deaths from heroin overdoses were the highest in 20 years.
The city believes they have a solution for both problems… they are creating a “safe heroin injection site and homeless shelter” where homeless drug addicts can inject themselves with heroin in their own “safe space” without fear of getting kicked out.
The city says this will prevent overdoses, and “could possibly even put some on the road to recovery.” It will be a supervised facility, providing clean needles and naloxone in case of overdoses.
Seattle already has such a facility for alcoholics, where residents can drink in their rooms, and they estimate it saves taxpayers $4 million a year on emergency services. Likewise, they believe a safe space for heroin users would keep them out of the emergency room as well.
More than 10,500 died from heroin overdoses in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The drug necessary to reverse the effects of an overdose and save a life is Naloxone, also known as Narcan – and the cost is skyrocketing, going from $4 a dose in 2010, to $38 a dose in 2015.
Seattle’s Heroin Task Force, formed by Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine, has endorsed opening the safe space housing sites.
According to the Seattle Times, “Murray has proposed a dormitory-style homeless shelter modeled after San Francisco’s Navigation Center that would allow pets, partners, storage for personal belongings, and intoxicated residents — unlike some shelters — as a way to coax residents out of encampments.”
Another city – Ithaca, New York – has also proposed a “safe site” for heroin users to inject themselves.
The results, success rate, and liability risks of the program are yet to be determined.
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