In January 2017, Seattle and King County made national headlines: They announced their intentions to build the first two supervised consumption sites in the U.S. as a way to help combat the opioid crisis. The sites, also known as Community Health Engagement Locations (CHELs), safe consumption sites, or heroin injection sites, depending on whom you ask, are places where people can inject or consume illicit drugs legally and under medical supervision. They’re designed to prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C, as well as overdose deaths, and can serve as a way to connect people to treatment and other health and social services. But lots of people and public officials both in and outside of Seattle are vehemently opposed to the idea, and more than a dozen cities in the region have permanently banned them. This is Part One of a three-part series on the heated, emotional, and sometimes bitter debate in the Seattle area around one of the most controversial policy proposals in the country.
Featuring interviews with Turina James, Joshua Freed, Jared Nieuwenhuis, and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
This week’s cover photo is an image of the injection room at Insite, the supervised consumption facility in Vancouver, B.C., and was taken by Nicole Jennings.