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Seattle Healthcare Workers Stage 'Die-In' at City Hall to Advocate Supervised Drug-Use Sites

By Britni de la Cretaz 12/09/16

King County is currently considering opening the country's first supervised drug-use sites.

Seattle Healthcare Workers Stage 'Die-In' at City Hall to Advocate Supervised Drug-Use Sites
Photo: via Facebook/Yes to SCS - Seattle/King County

On Friday, Dec. 2, a group of healthcare workers laid down on the tile floor inside Seattle City Hall. They were staging a “die-in” to advocate for supervised injection sites in their city, which city officials are currently discussing.

The group, Health Care Workers For Supervised Consumption Spaces, “formed in response to the public health need for supervised consumption spaces and aims to educate the public about the intervention,” they said in a statement. The date was chosen because it was the anniversary of the Seattle City Council’s 2002 resolution in support of harm reduction programs to combat drug addiction. This action by the group was an attempt to hold the city accountable to their commitment to harm reduction principles.

We got in touch with one of the organizers of the action, Carolanne Sanders. "Community-oriented public health is about meeting people where they’re at and letting the community’s self-identified needs and strengths guide your work," said Sanders, a Master’s of Public Health student and former EMT, in a statement. "Safe consumption sites are one of the clearest examples of that."

Healthcare Workers For SCS appear to be taking cues from other die-ins that have been staged around the country in the past few years, most notably those protesting police brutality as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. By lying on the floor en masse, the goal of the action is to be representative of all the lives that will be lost if safe consumption sites don’t become a reality.

“A life is lost every 19 minutes,” Sanders told The Fix. “And we can’t afford that.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 78 people die of an opioid overdose in the United States every day.

If Seattle were to approve a supervised injection site, it would be the first city in the United States to do so. Earlier this year, an activist proposed a mobile injection site for the city. Back in May, Boston launched a safe space for medical supervision, but people cannot use drugs on-site. In the eight other countries that have supervised consumption spaces, the results have been encouraging. These facilities have reduced the number of drug-related deaths, increased numbers of people seeking both drug treatment and medical care for other conditions, and decreased numbers of discarded syringes in public areas.

“Although many people who use drugs want to stop or decrease their use, not everyone is ready or able to make that change,” Dr. David Sapienza, a primary care and addiction trained physician in Seattle, told The Fix in a statement. “All people, however, deserve the right to medical care and resources that will improve their health regardless of whether they continue to use drugs or not.”

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.

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