A council member in Seattle is floating the possibility of providing heroin users with taxpayer-subsidized drugs for use at the city’s proposed mobile safe injection van.
Lawmakers in Seattle are currently debating the best way to set up a safe injection site for those in the city suffering from drug addiction.
Officials at a council meeting Thursday proposed using a mobile van that would serve as an injection site before returning to a secure area in the city every night.
They compared the safe injection van to a medical RV, but said it would be much larger, containing space for consumption booths and recovery areas, reports KIRO.
The proposed safe injection van is estimated to cost taxpayers more than $4 million.
Turning heads, however, is an idea discussed by council member Sally Bagshaw that suggests providing addicts with heroin at the safe injection site.
“I hear from some of my most vocal opponents, that they don’t want their tax money going into buying drugs for people,” said Bagshaw, according to KIRO.
“But I have heard of some other models where drugs are provided. And that’s a public safety model. Because those who may not have the money to buy drugs are not breaking and entering to obtain whatever they need to buy whatever it is they are using.
“I would like to explore this. Not to say we are going to land anywhere on the issue. But part of what we are trying to do is reduce crime as well.”
While there is currently no active proposal to subsidize drug use in the city, Bagshaw said Seattle officials should consider investigating the viability of such a policy.
Drug overdose deaths surged in 2016 by 21 percent, claiming more than 64,000 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The increase is driven primarily by opioids like heroin and fentanyl, which claimed 42,249 lives in 2016, a 28 percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015.
Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, experienced a particularly dramatic increase, more than doubling from 9,580 lives in 2015 to 19,413 lives in 2016.
The epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S., officials say.
Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.
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