What I Saw on My Visit to Insite Supervised Injection Site

Recently, I joined a group of public health officials from Seattle and Vancouver, Canada to tour Vancouver’s supervised injection site, Insite. One of the recommendations of the Heroin Task Force convened by County Executive Dow Constantine, myself and the Mayors of Renton and Auburn was to open multiple sites similar to this one, so the visit was an opportunity to learn about this effort from our neighbors.

The first thing that stood out was the number of lives they’ve saved; some 5,000 overdoses have occurred at Insite since its inception and yet there has not been a single fatality to date. This success in keeping people alive means that the public health teams in Vancouver then have the opportunity to help people move into treatment as part of the continuum of care for people with substance abuse disorders.

Other main takeaways from the our visit were how the location might differ from that of a more distributed model recommended for our area; the low-tech efficiency in how it was run and respect for space, staff and each other among users; and the operational tie-in with the public health services in Vancouver, which enables the facility to maintain its existence despite political changes.

A key issue faced by the facility is that it is not reaching female users to the extent needed, which is something that would need to be addressed by any plan to site facilities in this region.

Ultimately, we as a city, a state and a nation need to do everything we can to help those facing substance abuse disorders and prevent others from experiencing addiction. Just last week, the Seattle Police Department was able to revive a person who had overdosed by administering Naloxone, the twelfth time they have done so successfully since the program was implemented this spring. But we have to do more.

Visiting Insite was eye-opening, and it reinforced our need to do what the science tells us to do when it comes to addressing the national crisis of addiction. That means more work on the state and federal level to fund programs and support legislation that truly helps combat addiction, and it means ensuring our public health infrastructure is built in a way that quickly and adequately responds to those experiencing substance abuse disorders.

— Mayor Ed Murray

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