Bellevue bans safe injection sites

On Aug. 7 of this year, the Bellevue City Council came together to establish an interim ban on Community Health Engagement Centers. Also known as supervised injection sites, they exist as part of a harm reduction approach towards the injection of illegal drugs. Having periodically shown up across the world since the 1990s, they offer a different process of thought towards people who take drugs intravenously. Considering the knowledge that these drugs are illegal hasn’t dissuaded the users, these sites allow them to take the drugs in an environment designed to make the process more sterile. This includes the disposal of used needles, as well as the usage of clean needles, which helps lower the risk of HIV amongst the users. However, Bellevue Mayor John Stokes hasn’t noticed any change in drug usage or death rates by effects of those drugs since the centers were instituted in January of this year. He believes that by banning these safe injection sites, the community can work together and focus on a more holistic approach to homelessness, as well as the drug usage issue.
Lynne Robinson of the Bellevue City Council was a part of the 6-0 vote for banning the sites. She too believes that there are more effective ways to address the opioid crisis. For example, city communities like schools, first responders and medical personnel should be taught how to identify addiction early on so it can be treated. According to Robinson, another option would be to make Narcan, a drug that helps block the effects of opioids and is commonly used to help stop overdoses, available to all first responders, versus just emergency medical technicians.
Robinson says that this, combined with doing the same for Buprenorphine, another drug used to help, treat narcotic addictions, as well as alleviating some of the mental or emotional barriers that prevent people from getting help will be a more effective way of helping those people. While Robinson believes every city should have the opportunity to determine on its own whether or not the sites are the best solution for the opioid addiction crisis, she expects some cities to decide that the sites are indeed the best option.
Councilmembers have been open to the ban since April of this year. The 2004 European Monitoring Centre Review of Drug Consumption Rooms calculated the lives saved across the 25 rooms located in Germany. Over the five years, the calculated two percent of the overdose fatality rate in Germany would have resulted in 10 total lives being saved. However, two percent was an excessive-looking number compared to the other countries surveyed. Spain, who held the highest heroin overdose mortality, still came in at just 1.4 percent. The Canadian Expert Advisory Committee in 2008 pulled a similar survey where they calculated that the system in Vancouver would be saving one life per year from what would have been a fatal overdose.
when the Bellevue City Council adopted an interim ban, it opened up a 60-day window to discuss whether or not they wanted to make it a permanent adoption. The transition to being a permanent enactment requires a public hearing which is to happen in their meeting on Oct. 16.
However, if something happens at the public hearing and the council is unable to decide on the nuances in creating a permanent ban, the Interim Official Control can stay in place for six months. This duration can be extended multiple times supposing the council holds a public hearing each time. Should they make the move to make it permanent, no extensions need to be had and no further public hearings need to be held on the topic.