LYMPIA, Wash. – People struggling with heroin addiction and other opioids could be hospitalized against their will under a bill proposed by a Washington state lawmaker.
The measure would expand the current Involuntary Treatment Act by including heroin and opioid users under “gravely disabled,” which means they are at risk of physical harm due to an inability to care for their immediate needs of health and safety.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, told The Associated Press after a public hearing Monday his bill most likely won’t advance this session due to budget constraints, but said the point of it was to start a discussion.
Under Senate Bill 5811, a person could be detained if, within a 12-month period, they’ve had three or more arrests connected to substance abuse, had one or more hospitalizations related to drug abuse or if they have three or more visible track marks indicating intravenous heroin use.
According to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, 37 states and the District of Columbia have statutes in place allowing for the involuntary commitment of individuals suffering from substance use disorder, alcoholism, or both.
Seattle and King County set a new record for fatal overdoses with 359 deaths in 2016, according to new data from the King County Medical Examiner’s office.
According to Seattle Fire Department records requested by KIRO 7, the overwhelming majority are in public places including, including city hall, the Central Library, Municipal Court, downtown Macy’s, the Nordstrom flagship store and Met Market in Queen Anne.
Heroin-injection sites are expected to come to King County. Safe injection sites are designated clinics where addicts can shoot up legally.
Proponents of a “safe consumption site” point to a similar housing operation in Seattle, where 75 alcoholics can drink in their rooms and have access to on-site treatment services. Studies show the operation saved taxpayers millions in housing and crisis services annually and decreased alcohol consumption in residents. Opponents of a safe injection sites say a consumption site condones drug use.
The director of the county health department will chair an implementation workgroup tasked with creating the first pilot site in Seattle and the second one later.