City Council member advocates for buying $350,000 medical van to be possibly used as safe injection site

SEATTLE -- The city of Seattle has been studying and promoting the idea of creating a safe injection site for nearly two years. Now the talk of a possible mobile version is picking up steam.

On Tuesday, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda told Q13 News that she was not “committed” to the idea of a mobile injection site. But then on Thursday Mosqueda promoted buying a van to be used as a safe injection site after getting new details from city officials on the idea.

The van would cost about $350,000.

Mosqueda, who represents Seattle citywide, has always been supportive of a safe injection model.

In fact, many Seattle city leaders believe it can make a difference in the fight against heroin addiction.

Mosqueda says data shows that it prevents deaths and helps with outreach and that many health officials support the idea.

For that reason, many council members have been fighting to bring a brick-and-mortar site for nearly two years.

But finding the right location that meets the criteria has been challenging and perhaps one of the biggest challenges has been the pushback from many in the public.

On Thursday, during the same committee meeting, City Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Debora Juarez asked supporters of safe injection sites to go out into the community and educate people who oppose the idea.

“A particular group of people shows up at every one of my community meetings to come at me over that (issue); you can only do so much,” Juarez said.

Juarez also asked whether  it was possible for the city to buy a piece of property and build a safe injection site. Turns out that’s not that easy either, because of the cost and shortage of real estate, according to a city official who responded to her question.

So now the conversation has evolved into whether a mobile van is an option.

A report released by Health Integration Strategist for the city stated it will cost about $1.8 million to get the van up and running and up to $2.5 million to operate a mobile safe injection model.

“We should move forward with the purchase of that van as we engage with the community of a possible location and with a reminder that it’s a fixed location, if those dollars are in hand right now, and if I am reading the information correctly, if that is the most cost-effective and most expedient way to create a potential site,” Mosqueda said.

With city leaders now under heavy scrutiny over spending accountability Q13 News asked Mosqueda whether spending $350,000 in taxpayer money for a van was the right thing to do before community engagement and even before finding a location for a mobile safe consumption site.

Mosqueda emphasized that the community would get to engage and that the City Council has not reached a decision on the mobile van idea.

But she says it’s important to set a timeline on this issue so that if a brick-and-mortar location is not feasible, that a mobile one is at least an option.

Q13 News also tried to dig into where the money would all come from.

According to the Department of Human Services, the money for the van could be coming from the $1.3 million already budgeted for a safe injection model, which the city is now calling a Community Health Engagement Location.

But the operating cost of up to $2.5 million has not been secured as of yet.