Mayor Harrell, work group to address drug use in public spaces

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Continuing the work laid out in his Executive Order focused on making Seattle a safer, healthier city by addressing the crisis of fentanyl and synthetic drugs, Mayor Bruce Harrell has appointed a 24-member work group uniting the four corners of Seattle government — the Mayor’s Office, Seattle City Council, Seattle Municipal Court, and Seattle City Attorney — along with leaders in law enforcement, diversion programs, and service provision to advance effective and sustainable solutions addressing illegal drug use in public spaces.  

“We are committed to addressing the deadly public health crisis playing out on our streets, holding dealers accountable for trafficking illegal drugs harming our communities, and advancing innovative health strategies to help those struggling with substance use disorder,” Harrell said. “There is a time for appropriate constitutional arrests when people are posing a threat to others; however, when people are a threat only to themselves, they need compassionate treatment. Updating the Seattle Municipal Code to align with recently passed state law makes sense, as does demonstrating how this additional tool will be applied and how it fits in the broader spectrum of treatment and diversion options.”

Harrell announced that in the coming weeks, the Mayor’s Office will submit a new ordinance to reconcile Seattle Municipal Code with state law on public consumption of illegal drugs and describe and codify how that law will be applied. A subset of the larger Fentanyl Systems Work Group called for in the mayor’s Executive Order, this group will define solutions, improve system coordination, and develop implementation strategies. As the larger work group begins to assess diversion and treatment systems, it will expand to include additional stakeholders, including public health partners and public and private treatment providers.  

The mayor also announced plans to issue an Executive Order requiring better collection and data tracking related to substance use issues, including the number of people impacted, accessibility of treatment, use of law enforcement and diversion programs, and more. 

“Determining whether solutions are effective – and sustainable – requires strong and accurate data that can be used for objective analysis. This effort will be critical for tracking progress and improving services helping those in need,” said Mayor Harrell. “While some think we should work in silos or disparage those who disagree, this work is too important not to bring everyone to the table to identify solutions while people are dying in the streets. In One Seattle, we’re always willing to have the hard conversations necessary to build consensus and drive progress – and I know the members of the work group are up to the task.”


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