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Seattle approves safe injection sites for addicts to inject illegal drugs amid surge in overdoses

January 30, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Seattle approves safe injection sites for addicts to inject illegal drugs amid surge in overdoses Photo courtesy of Vancouver Coastal Health

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On Friday, Seattle officials approved the United States’ first safe injection sites for illegal drug users.

These sites provide illicit drug users sterile needles, medical supervision, and fast access to medicine that could reverse the effects of an overdose, according to the Washington Post.

Safe injection sites like those approved in Seattle have been popular in Europe for a while, and the idea is spreading to other cities in the U.S. including Boston, Ithaca, New York, and New York City.

Opponents of the new sites claim that the sites only promote illegal drug use while advocates say the sites help keep people alive and can put those who are addicted on the way to treatment.

“These sites save lives, and that is our goal in Seattle/King County,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced in a statement.

Kelly Dineen, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law, said that the sites are forbidden under federal law because the Controlled Substances Act makes it illegal to operate establishments where drugs are used.

The King County Board of Health unanimously voted in early January to approve two sites, one in Seattle and the other in a surrounding county. Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine delivered the final approval on Friday.

In 2015, 132 people were killed of heroin overdoses in King County, the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute indicated. Across the U.S., 33,000 individuals died from opioid overdoses in 2015.

Officials hope to open the site within a year, and both facilities will be directed at homeless drug users and will focus on providing people with health services and drug treatment.

“The goal is not to open a spa where people can come in and have a good time and use drugs, but engage them in treatment,” Jeff Duchin, the health officer for Seattle and King County, stated. “They inject where there’s a health-care worker who can save lives if they overdose.”

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