Rejection to safe injection facility: Auburn City Council says no

About King County eyeing Auburn as the site for a safe injection facility for heroin addicts?

No, no, no, says West Hill resident Marie-Anne Harkness.

“We don’t need that here in Auburn, and I want it in writing,” Harkness informed the Auburn City Council during a public comment period of the regular council meeting Monday.

Other speakers echoed that opposition.

Wish granted.

By unanimous vote, the City Council later approved a resolution that sets down in cold ink the City’s hot opposition to any safe injection facility here, no way, no how.

The resolution directs that copies of the resolution be sent to the King County Council and to any relevant state, local and federal authorities to ensure that they, too, know of the City’s iron-clad resolve.

Councilmember John Holman brought the resolution forward Monday “as new and urgent business.”

“We heard our citizens with passion speaking to this issue, and the interwebs have lit up like Christmas trees with the way our citizens feel … and this is one way we can let our citizens know we are listening to them, and we hear them very clearly,” Holman said.

Holman said the language of the resolution originated with an email from Harkness, and in the leadup to Monday’s vote the resolution had gone through three to four versions with the City’s legal department.

Deputy Mayor Largo Wales urged that the Seattle King County Public Health Department be on the mailing list, too.

“… They have the authority to act on their own” in the siting of such facilities, Wales said.

Councilman Rich Wagner added that the Pierce County Council should be on the distribution list, too, as 10 percent of Auburn’s population lives there.

“I think it’s important that not only are we going to distribute this resolution to our various representatives across our state county and county, but that it is very important that we raise the banner higher,” said Councilman Claude DaCorsi said.

That is, he continued, when City leaders make the trek to Olympia to talk to state representatives, a number of things need to be made clear to them, among them that the opioid epidemic is a health crisis issue, a disease issue.

“Our mental health system support in this state is broken. It is beyond repair, there’s not enough resources being placed in it to fix the problem,” DaCorsi said. “We have a situation where many of these issues were placed on the back burner, and I think it’s time for many of our state representatives to step up and, regardless of where we are in the budget, regardless of where we are in the process of supporting and funding our schools, they need to put more dollars in this so we can treat the disease and not treat the criminal activity.”

At a recent forum on the heroin opioid epidemic, Mayor Nancy Backus declared the City’s opposition to safe injection sites, and she repeated it Monday.

“That is what I have been talking about for quite some time – the need for additional resources for behavioral health. The Heroin Opioid Task Force that King County Executive Dow Constantive, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Renton Mayor Denis Law and myself self convened came up with the eight recommendations that included the CHELs (Community Health Engagement Locations),” Backus said, referring to the county’s bureaucratic acronym for safe injection sites. “I am proud to say that of those task force members, the City of Auburn and Renton voted no on the recommendation for those CHEL sites. Auburn has been on record for quite some time being against those.

“So tonight, if this passes, it will be official that the voice has been heard and that there will not be any allowance of … safe injection sites, whatever you want to call them – in the City of Auburn,” Backus declared.

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