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Drug Consumption Sites Touted As Safe Spaces For Illegal Drug Use

Paula Wissel
Greg Scott, who designed the mock drug consumption site, talks with Brian Kilk about the traveling exhibit.

Creating places where drug users could go to shoot up heroin or smoke crack is an increasingly popular idea.  Treatment advocates say it’s a recognition that addiction is a public health crisis. A mock up of a drug consumption site was on display in various Seattle parks this week. The advocacy group VOCAL-Washington brought the traveling exhibit to Seattle. The group says it wants to help people visualize what a supervised drug consumption site might look like.

Standing outside the installation called Safe Shape, Patricia Sully  with VOCAL, said one goal is to make a space that is not institutional looking. The mock site, a sort of pyramid-shaped tent structure, includes a "chill room" with soft pillows where someone who has just consumed drugs can go to hang out.

"You know, it's really important that people who use drugs actually feel safe and comfortable in a space like this. We want people, who are often disconnected from services, to feel like this is a place they can go without judgment and without fear, so it is important it have an inviting atmosphere to it,” Sully said.

There are supplies available to use, syringes and cookers, but no drugs would be supplied to users. There would be medical staff on hand to help prevent overdoses and counselors would be available to provide treatment for users when they are ready to seek help.

There aren't yet any such spaces in the Puget Sound region. However, Vancouver, B.C. does have a safe injection site.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.