Seattle officials say details still pending on council member's proposal to buy, set up safe injection van

SEATTLE -- About a month ago, one Seattle City Council Member promoted the idea of buying a van to use as a safe injection site.

Council member Teresa Mosqueda directed the Seattle Department of Human Services to look into purchasing the van for about $350,000. She suggested the van be purchased sometime in mid-July.

Q13 News reached out to Mosqueda and her spokesperson Dana Robinson Slote multiple times over the last couple of weeks, asking for details on how things are moving forward and when exactly community engagement will begin on the issue. So far, new details have been hard to come by and Mosqueda has not made herself available for an interview.

Many Seattle city leaders, including health experts, believe a safe injection site could be one tool that helps prevent heroin overdoses and push people towards rehab.

But the challenge has been finding an appropriate brick-and-mortar location.

In a committee meeting on June 7, Mosqueda promoted moving forward with the mobile van idea for the time being.

“I think if we know a known amount of purchasing a van, which is potentially to be $350,000, we should go ahead and do that and then find a site and continue community engagement,” Mosqueda said.

The mobile van would come and go to a fixed location. There would be staff to monitor for overdoses and provide treatment options.

Back in early June, Mosqueda also recommended a timeline of when things should happen.

“Mobile van order or build, beginning in the mid part of July here, which feels like 6 weeks or so from now, and that would potentially put us on a trajectory for community engagement beginning August,” Mosqueda said.

Concerned residents say there are so many questions on the table and the city should engage the community before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a van.

“For one, we don’t know what’s exactly on the table and there has been no community input,” Capitol Hill resident Sara Mae Brereton said.

Brereton wants to know how many people in the throes of an addiction one van could possibly help.

“If this is something they are going to ram down our throats anyway, we need to have data to support continuing to use it,” Brereton said.

As for when the public would see dates for community engagement, the City Council spokesperson said the next moves and a timeline are up to the mayor’s office.

The Department of Human Services, which operates under the Mayor’s Office, said on Tuesday that the timeline recommended by Mosqueda was from her.

The department says the details of when the van will be purchased has not been determined.

They say any options moving forward will be a part of a treatment continuum and also promised robust community engagement.

Brereton says she is not 100% opposed to the safe injection model -- what she wants is data and assurances first from city leaders.

“That these policies will work but instead we get a bunch of political rhetoric,” Brereton said.

A mobile safe injection model will take about $1.8 million to get up and running and another $2.5 million to operate.