Mayor of Seattle wants to solve drug crisis with gift cards

Seattle residents and business owners have said the drug crisis on the streets is scaring people and businesses away from the downtown core.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
Seattle Democratic Mayor Bruce Harrell unveiled his fentanyl and downtown activation plan on Monday to combat the massive drug crisis plaguing the city and even included a pilot research program to offer gift cards to encourage drug addicts to accept treatment services. 

The city's website states that it will "Pilot a research-based drug abatement program known as 'contingency management'” an effort to encourage individuals with substance use disorder to accept treatment services by providing incentives (low dollar gift cards). The 12-week program rewards individuals with substance addiction for abstinence and, in a novel approach, is administered where people live instead of in a medical clinic."

589 people died due to overdoses in Seattle in 2022, the majority attributed to fentanyl and meth, according to city data. 708 people in King County died from fentanyl in 2022, an average of 1.94 a day. 

As of March 15, 172 people in King County have already died of an overdose involving fentanyl, an average of 2.32 a day. 

In his new executive order, Harrell discussed the launch of a pilot expansion of the Seattle Fire Department’s Health One program to include an overdose response unit.

However, the mayor failed to address where the additional staff would come from as the department is already grappling with a massive staffing shortage so severe that one whistleblower said, "Someone is going to get killed," and believes that the city will not take any action to solve the problem even if the next victim is a firefighter. 

Earlier this month, The Post Millennial revealed that even though units are being “browned out” due to the lack of staff, the city still refuses to hire back firefighters and medics that were terminated due to refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, even though the vaccine mandate has expired and employees who retired or transferred are being offered their jobs back. 

Seattle residents and business owners have said the drug crisis on the streets is scaring people and businesses away from the downtown core. Addicts regularly refuse to accept offers of shelter or services so Harrell’s plan also includes providing low-dollar gift cards to incentivize addicts to get treatment. 

The plan also called for creating more resources for people dealing with addiction such as a “contingency management” program to keep overdose survivors clean and increase access to overdose prevention medication like Narcan, which is being distributed through new methods including vending machines in King County. 

However, many of these services are already in place and have not stemmed the increase of those living on the streets of the city, of which, according to Seattle and King County numbers, over 80 percent have a drug addiction. 

It was revealed in a new report that the city of Seattle has spent nearly $1 billion on homelessness over the last decade but the number of those living on the streets continues to increase.  

Harrell also ordered Seattle Police to prioritize disrupting the distribution and sale of fentanyl and going after drug dealers to the fullest extent possible.  

Their efforts may be similarly limited as the department has lost over 600 officers since the City Council began defunding the police during the riots in the summer of 2020. 

The plan also included cleaning up litter and graffiti downtown, attracting local artists and entrepreneurs to fill up to 20 vacant storefronts by the summer, hiring more Metropolitan Improvement District ambassadors to keep downtown clean, and creating more community events downtown. 

According to the Downtown Seattle Association, 500 businesses have closed since the pandemic. 

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