This fall in Seattle, homeless people with a heroin problem could get some help with overcoming their addiction, thanks to an initiative by King County. Officials in King County put out a request for proposals and will choose bidders in September to treat heroin addicts who want help kicking the habit.
The plan is similar to what officials in San Francisco began doing in 2016 when they started prescribing buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, to heroin addicts living on the streets. Buprenorphine is used successfully in medication-assisted treatment plans to help people overcome their addiction to opiates by lowering withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
San Francisco's Department of Health estimated that at the time they began prescribing buprenorphine, there were 11,000 heroin addicts in the city but they could not estimate how many of those were homeless. But rather than waiting for addicts to come to them for help in overcoming their addiction, the Department went to tent camps and the streets of San Francisco. Since then, of the 200 people who were prescribed buprenorphine, 60% are still maintaining a clean lifestyle.
Seattle already has a Mobile Medical Clinic that provides medical treatment for the homeless, but it just provides basic medical care like wound treatment. The homeless make up less than 1% of the total population of King County, but 16% of opiate-related deaths occurred among the homeless in 2018. By offering heroin treatment, the Mobile Medical Clinic hopes to be able to reach the some 78% of homeless people who say they want help overcoming their addiction.
Some are skeptical, though, that the city government won't be able to establish or maintain trust with the city's homeless and also say that if the key components that lead to homelessness aren't addressed, many homeless will keep using heroin. A trainer with Peer Seattle, which helps educate and train people on combating addiction said, “If you're not supporting the person, then the reasons for using will still exist.” Other officials worry that due to the high turnover rates at homeless camps, the county won't be able to treat everyone on a long-term basis.
Drug Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
Possessing any controlled substance is a crime in Washington, but possessing heroin carries some of the harshest sentences. According to Washington law RCW 69.50.204(b), heroin is a Schedule I drug and possessing even a tiny amount is prosecuted as a felony crime. Due to the opioid crisis, where pharmaceutical companies are accused of overprescribing opioids as painkillers, more and more people have become addicted to opiates and then turned to using heroin as cheaper and sometimes easier to get. If you have been accused of possessing heroin, you need an experienced defense attorney by your side. Call the Law Offices of Steve Karimi today at 206-621-8777 or use the contact form to explain your case.