King County voters in February could face a two-part question to whether they want supervised consumption sites.
The majority of King County council members on Monday plan to support new legislation that rejects Initiative 27—which asks voters whether the county should allow the sites—and adopts an alternative to be put to the voters in next year's February 6 special election. The county's option would allow voters to give the green light for two new supervised consumption sites.
Three council members cosponsored the proposed ordinance by Tuesday afternoon: Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Rod Dembowski, and Joe McDermott. Larry Gossett and Claudia Balducci will also be cosponsors, Kohl-Welles said.
"It's warranted to try something that's been proven to work...in saving lives and reducing public risk," Kohl-Welles told PubliCola, citing that about 100 sites in other countries have had no fatalities. "Science wins out for me on this."
If the bill passes Monday, voters would first get asked whether they want to reject both options on the ballot or accept one of them. The second part would ask whether voters want to accept I-27—oppose the supervised consumption sites altogether—or accept King County's pilot program.
The county's option would allow a three-year pilot of supervised consumption sites at overdose hotspots "with community engagement and evaluation for effectiveness." The plan is to offer a site in Seattle and another one somewhere else in King County, where users would have an observer watching them administer the drug and where they can be connected to social and health care services.
The heroin and opiate task force recommended the sites last year and unanimously approved by the King County Board of Health in January. Supporters cite data from about 100 sites in other countries showing no fatalities, arguing that the sites would combat rising overdose deaths; opponents say the sites enable dangerous drug consumption rather than get people clean.
I-27 organizers are also currently battling a lawsuit—if the suit is successful, it would block the initiative from getting on the February ballot altogether.
"Voters deserve to have their say on government-sponsored heroin injection sites before Executive Constantine rushes to build them,” said Joshua Freed, chair of the Safe King County campaign, in a released statement in August.
Safe King County, which sponsored I-27, originally planned to have the initiative on the November general election ballot. It was postponed because organizers didn't turn in the materials early enough to process in time, according to King County Elections.