Op-Ed

Pierce County should stay out of drug-delivery business

Pierce Council member Pam Roach, R-Sumner.
Pierce Council member Pam Roach, R-Sumner.

Make no mistake, so-called “safe” opioid injection sites are not safe, they are very dangerous things. That is why they should be banned in Pierce County.

The Pierce County Council is moving forward to ban government-sanctioned illegal drug-injection sites in unincorporated areas before they even get started. And, for the health and safety of everyone, that is what needs to be done.

These sites have been an absolute disaster in Vancouver, British Columbia. The first city in North America to provide needles and nurses to assist addicts in shooting up has become a virtual haven for addicts.

Remember, if you build it, they will come.

Statistics indicate that “during the first half of 2017, 780 people died from using illegal drugs in Vancouver --- 88 percent more than the 2016 numbers for the same time period” (Matt Krayden, The Daily Caller, Vancouver).

That’s pretty pathetic.

Last summer I sponsored a measure declaring Pierce County to be in a state of opioid crisis. It passed unanimously. We need to leverage that status in Washington D. C. to secure funds from the Trump Administration that have been promised to high-abuse areas.

We should be focusing our resources on evidence-based treatment and recovery-support services.

We must urge doctors to voluntarily reduce opioid prescriptions, collect and dispose of unused drugs, and give strong warnings to patients.

We need to prosecute corrupt doctors and pharmacies, and those who sell drugs out the back door.

We need a dedicated direct-help line for people who are ready to accept treatment. Transition the 2-1-1 call-line to serve those in drug crisis! The number is easy to remember, not the random 800 number we have now. No one knows it exists.

The Legislature needs to abolish the Certificate of Need, an outdated program that tells Pierce County we don’t need any more treatment facilities and, therefore, have no permission to build one.

This keeps providers out and eliminates competition for the one hospital we have with this service. Signature Health Systems of California wants to site here (without the use of taxpayer funding) and the state is not allowing it.

We have a protectionist system that denies us the benefits of free enterprise. And, it severely limits help to those who need it.

We should air, free of charge, public-service announcements on TV and radio. I spent $20,000 from my office budget to start a help-line. The response was overwhelming! We are receiving many calls of thanks saying a loved one got help.

We need at least two more enforcement officers to crack down on illicit drug-supply chains, and we need to concentrate more efforts on illegal smuggling on our waterways.

At last week’s Rules Committee, some council members were quick to criticize the idea of banning injection sites, saying the issue had not been studied. Others of us believe enabling and subsidizing destructive behavior is the wrong way to go.

One council member suggested possibly using county facilities as injection sites. But who would be liable if someone dies while receiving assistance from a county employee? The taxpayers?

Would these unsafe sites also condone fentanyl? This synthetic opioid is like heroin on steroids! It is popular among users in Kitsap County, and it’s on its way here.

Let’s stay out of the drug-delivery business. Act now and stop this bad idea from taking root. Let’s join Snohomish County, Federal Way, Auburn and Lynnwood by banning this bad idea from the get-go.

Pam Roach, R-Sumner, represents District 2 on the Pierce County Council and is a former long-time member of the Washington state Senate. Reach her by email at pam.roach@co.pierce.wa.us

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