Des Moines City Council unanimously rejects safe drug injection sites

By Jack Mayne

The Council passed unanimously, 5 to 0 with two excused absences, a motion rejecting any possibility of a safe injection site in Des Moines at Thursday night’s meeting (Aug. 24).

City Attorney Tim George (pictured above) told the Council that safe injection sites are legal places where people can use illegal, injectable drugs “in a non-judgmental environment.” There are no such sites in the United State, he said, with the closest legal site in Vancouver, B.C.

Increased discussion of problems with increasing illegal drug use prompted King County to consider such sites in the Seattle area, based on a process now used in Europe.

The County Council approved money to open two sites in the county, but cities would have the option to not allow such a site within their borders, George said. One site has been approved in Seattle.

Several cities have already rejected site locations, including Auburn and Federal Way, with Kent imposing a moratorium on such a facility there.

Resident Matt Mahoney, a candidate for a Council seat in November, told the Council he thought safe drug injection sites would be “ridiculous” and bring problems to the city, and he asked the Council to tell King County no to putting such a location in Des Moines. Another candidate for Council, Harry Steinmetz said he also opposed the safe injection sites because it was not a good solution to the drug problems.

Councilmember Rob Back said, “of course I oppose thee” but added the issue will not go away and will possibly become a bigger issue in time.

Des Moines Police have opposed such a site and the Council later said no to safe injection sites in Des Moines.

In other action, the Des Moines Council confirmed the appointments of five residents to the Ad Hoc Aviation Advisory Committee. They are Sheila Brush, Steve Edmiston, David Clark, Wendy Ghiora and Mark Proulx.

The group is similar to ones appointed by the cities of Burien and SeaTac.

The Des Moines committee is to be led by City Manager Michael Matthias.

Resident Laurie Mceachern, who lives in the Marina area, said the city staff has done a good job of overseeing new paid parking problems and suggested working to get people who opposed the become supporters. She also suggested some adjustments in the fees so people can pay more easily.


10 Responses to “Des Moines City Council unanimously rejects safe drug injection sites”
  1. BirchCreek says:

    A big thank you to our Des Moines City Council!

  2. Martha says:

    Without safe injection sites we keep things how they are, where people are shooting up in the streets and throwing their needles on the ground for others to come across. Safe injection sites aren’t the end game, but are better than what we have.

    • Mac McGlynn says:

      Cocaine and heroin and all the rest are not lawful . We have portable schools we need
      portable jails! lock the users up 30 days !! After they go through withdrawals a couple of times they will quit or move ! Tough Love you people that wish to break the law for these people need to go too AL-ANON

      • Concerned Readers says:

        “Tough love” doesn’t need to involve letting someone die when there are medical treatment options (for opiate addiction issues) available. We need to make sure a continuum of care is available to address it. Someone using illegal substances who experiences an overdose or potentially fentanyl poisoning from tainted drugs, is undergoing a serious medical condition that deserves immediate emergency medical care first, regardless of the cause. Continuing the patient immediately on to treat the addiction that is driving the medical crises should be considered part of the necessary medical care, to reduce the rates of recurrence, in my opinion. That includes supportive outpatient followup care somewhere.
        I don’t think that attempting “safe” injection sites as a standalone belong in a smaller residential community. They would need a infrastructure of caregivers nearby available at the county level. Communities are right to be concerned. They save people’s lives but don’t affect addiction rates.

  3. LionsDen says:

    boo! my cousin recently died from heroin overdose. a few weeks before she said if there was a safe injection site she’d use it. if there was one she’d still be alive today. In Vancouver’s safe injection site there was 0 overdose deaths despite thousands of people using it.

  4. Don Honda says:

    Portugal is held up as the gold standard for “decriminalizing” drugs and not “judging” the addict. Their programs has some success due to wrap-around services and is mandatory. Drug dealing is still illegal and dealt with harshly. Other EU countries tried to emulate the program. With the 2008 recession, their budgets were slashed for the addicts in program and caused overdoses, increased crime, and increased disease transmission, increased homelessness. Can you see us having an Injections Site AND wrap-around services? I don’t believe there will be funding for both. Why not use any proposed funding and increase needed detox/rehab facilities and sober living environments along with all the needed physical/mental health and social services. The way I see it, Injections Sites are prolonging the suffering and misery of the addict with the usual end result of death. Which would be more compassionate?

    A Critical Evaluation of the Effects of Safe Injection Facilities
    Garth Davies, Simon Fraser University

    Conclusion: Taking Causality Seriously
    On the subject of the effects of SIFs, the available research is overwhelmingly positive. Evidence can be found in support of SIFs achieving each of the goals listed at the beginning of the evaluation. In terms of our level of confidence in these studies,the assessment offered here is far less sanguine. In truth,none of the impacts attributed to SIFs can be unambiguously verified. As a result of the methodological and analytical problems identified above, all claims remain open to question.

    Vancouver’s INSITE service and other Supervised injection sites: What has been learned from research?

    Final report of the Expert Advisory Committee

    “At the Vancouver site, the manager said since opening in 2003, the overdose death rate in the area around the clinic has dropped 35 percent. But the clinic also estimates 15 to 20 percent of people using the site come from other parts of the country specifically for it.”
    “Although research appears to bear that out, many of the studies that attest to Insite’s success are small and limited to the years after the center opened. For instance, a 2011 study published in the journal The Lancet found a 35 percent reduction in overdose deaths in the blocks surrounding Insite, versus 9 percent in the rest of Vancouver.

    But that often-cited study looked only at the period two years before and two years after the center opened, not the ensuing decade.”

    “Although Insite is paired with a drug-treatment center, called Onsite, Berner and other critics point out that completion rates are low. Of the 6,500 people who visited Insite last year, 464 were referred to Onsite’s detox center. Of those, 252 finished treatment.”

    The Vancouver Insite was placed in a crime-ridden, drug-ridden, low-income neighborhood. It only got worse.
    “Although the Insite center is a model, the Vancouver neighborhood surrounding it is nothing to emulate, advocates acknowledged.

    “If I came from a city like Seattle and I went to that Insite place, it would scare the hell out of me,” Kral said. “I would think, ‘Are we going to create one of those?’ ””
    Vancouver’s ‘gulag’: Canada’s poorest neighbourhood refuses to get better despite $1M a day in social spending

    What do you think would happen if this was placed in a middle-class neighborhood, or, ANY neighborhood?
    Brian Hutchinson: Finding used drug needles in public spaces has become the new normal for Vancouver

    “Ten years later, despite any lofty claims, for most addicts, InSite’s just another place to get high.”

    The 100% positive studies on Vancouver’s Insite (Safe Injection Facility) was done “Early last decade, Montaner and Kerr lobbied for an injection site. In 2003, the Chretien Liberals acquiesced, gave the greenlight to B.C.’s Ministry of Health, which, through Vancouver Coastal Health, gave nearly $1.5 million to the BC Centre (that’s Montaner and Kerr, you remember them) to evaluate a three-year injection site trial in Vancouver.

    I asked him about the potential conflict of interest (lobbyists conducting research) and he ended the interview with a warning. “If you took that one step further you’d be accusing me of scientific misconduct, which I would take great offense to. And any allegation of that has been generally met with a letter from my lawyer.”

    Was I being unfair? InSite is a radical experiment, new to North America and paid for by taxpayers. Kerr and company are obligated to explain their methods and defend their philosophy without issuing veiled threats of legal action.”

    In the media, Kerr frequently mentions the “peer review” status of his studies, implying that studies published in medical journals are unassailable. Rubbish. Journals often publish controversial studies to attract readers — publication does not necessarily equal endorsement. The InSite study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a favourite reference of InSite champions, appeared as a “letter to the editor” sandwiched between a letter about “crush injuries” in earthquakes and another on celiac disease.”

    Really? What kind of “science” produces dozens of studies, within the realm of public health, a notoriously volatile research field, with positive outcomes 100 per cent of the time? Those results should raise the eyebrows of any first-year stats student.”

    And who’s more likely to be swayed by personal bias? InSite opponents, questioning government-sanctioned hard drug abuse? Or Montaner, Kerr and their handful of acolytes who’ve staked their careers on InSite’s survival? From 2003 to 2011, the BC Centre received $2,610,000 from B.C. taxpayers to “study” InSite. How much money have InSite critics received?”

    There has never been an independent analysis of InSite, yet, if you base your knowledge on Vancouver media reports, the case is closed. InSite is a success and should be copied nationwide for the benefit of humanity. Tangential links to declining overdose rates are swallowed whole. Kerr’s claims of reduced “public disorder” in the neighbourhood go unchallenged, despite other mitigating factors such as police activity and community initiative. Journalists note Onsite, the so-called “treatment program” above the injection site, ignoring Onsite’s reputation among neighbourhood residents as a spit-shined flophouse of momentary sobriety.”

    Reducing the Transmission of Blood-Borne Viral Infections & Other Injection Related Infections

    “Self-reports from users of the INSITE service and from users of SIS services in other countries indicate that needle sharing decreases with increased use of SISs. Mathematical modeling, based on assumptions about baseline rates of needle sharing, the risks of HIV transmission and other variables, generated very wide ranging estimates for the number of HIV cases that might have been prevented. The EAC were not convinced that these assumptions were entirely valid.
    SISs do not typically have the capacity to accommodate all, or even most injections that might otherwise take place in public. Several limitations to existing research were identified including:
    Caution should be exercised in using mathematical modelling for assessing cost benefit/effectiveness of INSITE, given that:
    There was limited local data available regarding baseline frequency of injection, frequency of needle sharing and other key variables used in the analysis;
    While some longitudinal studies have been conducted, the results have yet to be published and may never be published given the overlapping design of the cohorts;
    No studies have compared INSITE with other methods that might be used to increase referrals to detoxification and treatment services, such as outreach, enhanced needle exchange service, or drug treatment courts.
    Some user characteristics relevant to understanding their needs and monitoring change have not been reported including details of baseline treatment histories, frequency of injection and frequency of needle sharing.
    User characteristics and reported changes in injection practices are based on self-reports and have not been validated in other ways. More objective evidence of sustained changes in risk behaviours and a comparison or control group study would be needed to confidently state that INSITE and SISs have a significant impact on needle sharing and other risk behaviours outside of the site where the vast majority of drug injections still take place.”

    “It has been estimated that injection drug users inject an average six injections a day of cocaine and four injections a day of heroin. The street costs of this use are estimated at around $100 a day or $35,000 a year. Few injection drug users have sufficient income to pay for the habit out through employment. Some, mainly females get this money through prostitution and others through theft, break-ins and auto theft. If the theft is of property rather than cash, it is estimated that they must steal close to $350,000 in property a year to get $35,000 cash. Still others get the money they need by selling drugs.”
    Massive Price Hike for Lifesaving Opioid Overdose Antidote

    Suddenly in demand, naloxone injector goes from $690 to $4,500

    Should we follow the money? Who would be profiting bigly from the increased use of naloxone?
    Supervised injection sites—a view from law enforcement

    “Setting up free injection sites to deal with the recent spate of drug overdoses does not address the root of the opioid problem, says Ted Brown, executive director of Brampton’s Regeneration Outreach Community.

    Instead, Queen’s Park and other tiers of governments should consider investing resources and dollars toward rehabilitation programs to help those dealing with addiction and mental health issues, said Brown. ”

    Jamie Graham, former chief of Vancouver Police has outlined the successful model of dealing with an epidemic: Support, mandatory treatment, abstinence, and counseling as all part of the solution. My recover(ed)(ing) addict friends say they would agree.
    Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening

    In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past 20 years. Emma
    Young finds out how they did it, and why other countries won’t follow suit.

    Pigeon nest of needles highlights Vancouver’s drug problem

    Some graphs about how overdoses in Vancouver, BC have increased:

    One more:

  5. Reckland says:

    THE council made a bad decision here. safe injection sites save lives. THE council should be ashamed

  6. Laurie M says:

    Since my name was mentioned in the above post, I would like to clarify. The staff have done a great job staying on top of the problems since the implementation of paid parking and the illegal activities on the Marina floor have been greatly reduced. Now we need to make it easier for everyone else to come and enjoy our waterfront – with more signage directing people to the cash kiosks, for those not wanting to use a credit or debit card, and, most important, letting the public know that there is a “grace period” for picking up or dropping off passengers going to Anthony’s or meeting up with a marina tenant. We need to make the Marina accessible for a larger portion of the public to enjoy

  7. Des Moines Home Owner says:

    This comment is to the folks who are in favor of injection sites. If you are interested in having drug addicts hanging around 24/7 and the homeless trashing your neighborhood, I suggest you invite them into your personal space. Nothing good will come from an injection site being placed in Des Moines. Expect a four block radius of neighborhood blight and your property values decreasing. Try selling your home afterwards. I would no buy your house. I know. I have an addicted brother and he alone has disrupted every family member’s family to the point where we had to kick remove his presence from all of our homes. He has stolen so much from us and this includes our parents. He is now is in another state and still living a worthless life after many stints in rehab. SAY NO TO INJECTION SITES.

  8. Redondo Home Owner says:

    THANK YOU City of Des Moines for rejecting! After reading this blog and hearing so many perspectives on this subject, including Vancouver’s site, my heart does go out to the addicts and their families. The bottom line is that this drug use is illegal and legal places to practice illegal drug use is just unacceptable. There are paths to sobriety if someone really wants it and that is the key here. We cannot ignore there is certainly a mental health issue to be addressed with addicts who live on the streets. The answer is not to continue to enable people by giving them resources and NO accountability to change their lives. I have a dear friend who is a psychiatrist for Seattle Mental Health. Sure would like to see resources directed toward mental health and NOT to giving addicts a place to make excuses for their addiction and use of illegal drugs.

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