Despite what Representative Morgan Irwin has been spreading on social media, the City of Auburn will not be welcoming a Community Health Engagement Location (CHEL) – or safe injection – site any time soon. In the comments of his Facebook post, Rep. Irwin states that the information he received on this came from “elected officials within King County in meetings preparing for the upcoming State Legislative Session.” And that “The folks who brought it up are both elected and appointed staff people.”
At the July 17, 2017 Council meeting(1hr 11min), City Council passed Resolution No. 5306 which opposes these sites within Auburn city limits. The declaration of this resolution was sent on to King County Council and the King County Board of Health. On June 26, 2017, the King County Council passed Ordinance No. 2017-0136.2, which restricts the placement of CHEL sites “except in any city which chooses to establish such a location by vote of its elected governing body.”
When the passing of Auburn’s resolution was brought up to Rep. Morgan he replied, “legally the County probably can’t put anything in the City but we actually aren’t sure.”
When Mayor Nancy Backus reminded Rep. Irwin of City Council’s vote, and her own stance against CHEL sites, she also inquired why he would start this conversation. Rep. Irwin defended, “I started the post to bring awareness to the issue as it is far from decided and despite your bold ban King County may choose to put a site in the unincorporated regions that boarder Auburn.”
I will say that as a Republican – I would have expected ‘border’ to be a word Rep. Irwin would know how to spell correctly.
Locations in unincorporated King County that border the City of Auburn make very little sense for a CHEL site.
In March 2016 Mayor Backus joined King County Executive Dow Constantine, Renton Mayor Denis Law and then Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in convening The Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force. The goal of the task force was to discern ways to combat the epidemic (that not only our region, but the nation) currently faces. The task force presented their recommendations to the King County Board of Health in September 2016. On January 19, 2017 the Board unanimously approved their recommendations. Within those recommendations were at least 2 CHEL sites being opened in King County.
During the most recent Auburn Mayoral election false rumors of a CHEL site being approved within the the city and supported by Mayor Backus proliferated. This feels like an unfortunate attempt at resurrecting these rumors. If that is not the purpose of Rep. Irwin’s social media post, than he truly should do a better job of fact-checking, instead of burying pertinent information in the comments.
The City of Auburn’s representative on this task force, Commander Steve Stocker, always maintained a stance against safe injection sites.
While she has been vocal about finding solutions to combat addiction and the heroin and opioid epidemic, Mayor Backus has also continually maintained a stance against safe injection sites.
There has never been a welcome mat placed at Auburn’s door for CHEL safe injection sites. That isn’t going to change. But perhaps Enumclaw might be interested.