Seattle Activist Creating Mobile Safe Injection Site

By McCarton Ackerman 01/12/16

Shilo Murphy of the People's Harm Reduction Alliance seems to have the back of local officials.

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A Seattle street activist has announced plans to launch a mobile van that will encourage and promote safe drug use, despite knowing that the bulk of his mission is against state law.

Shilo Murphy, executive director of the nonprofit People’s Harm Reduction Alliance said he is in “the design stage” of the mobile safe consumption space and hopes to have it launched within a few months. He already has 700,000 syringes and intends on using a team of 200 volunteers to give out more than four million of them by the end of the year. The syringes, in addition to meth pipes and alcohol swabs, will all be given away free of charge. Murphy estimates that he will need $150,000 for the initial startup costs, which he hopes to get through fundraising and grants.

His idea was inspired by Insite, the government-supported supervised injection facility in Canada. Studies have shown that the site has drastically reduced rates of HIV and hepatitis C among intravenous drug users in the area.

"Think of the benefits of a safe injection site," he said. "No needles on the ground, rapid response for those needing detox, connections to sources and services—and a nurse!”

Many government officials appear to be onboard with trying the concept, including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. King County Sheriff John Urquhart also said he was open to it because “we will never make any headway in the war on drugs until we turn the war into a health issue." However, a spokesman for Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said she “would need to hear more about the research before commenting on the efficacy of safe injection.”

Murphy himself has cleaned up his life considerably since a heroin habit left him homeless 20 years, but he openly admits that he is still an occasional drug user. Perhaps surprisingly, the bylaws of the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance also states “at least 51% of our employees, volunteers and board must be active drug users.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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