Since Christmas, residents of Federal Way, Washington have noticed vans setting up in area parking lots and distributing needles for opioid injections. One neighbor got curious and decided to find out for herself what was going on.
After having witnessed vans setting up in grocery store parking lots as well as Park N Rides, on March 25, Grace Lubrano called the South County Outreach Referral and Exchange (SCORE) the needle exchange for King County and asked for an appointment. SCORE told Lubrano the van would be setting up in a parking lot at 276th and Pacific Highway South.
Lubrano parked in the lot and watched several cars and people approach the van. "I saw what looked like a 16 year old go to the van, then to the edge of the parking lot to shoot up. That's something I'll never forget seeing in person."
She then waited for the 'rush' to be over and then walked over to the van and asked if she could get a needle without having one to exchange. Lubrano was told, 'no problem' and was given a box of 100 syringes.
Lubrano continued her stakeouts and on March 26 observed the same activity at a Park N Ride on 348th and 9th Ave. She added that the needle van came to several other locations in Federal Way several more times that week.
The activity was posted on social media and reported to the office of Mayor Jim Farrell who contacted King County to ask for clarification on what they were doing in Federal Way. King County had allegedly not informed the city government of the public needle exchanges and only told the city that they were going to private residences.
In an interview with The Post Millennial’s Seattle correspondent and associate editor Ari Hoffman on Talk Radio 570 KVI, Farrell said, "About a week ago we learned that they were showing up at the Park N Rides but we had heard that they had also been showing up at locations like grocery store parking lots. We reached out to King County public Health repeatedly and even now they were saying they did not go to those locations but that they do go to the Park N Rides."
According to Farrell, he spoke to Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health, Seattle and King County, who said that SCORE was going to the Park N Rides. Farrell specifically cited Lubrano’s investigations and as of Tuesday, King County agreed to suspend the public distributions of the needle exchange program for the next few months "so we can have time to sit down and talk about exactly how they are going to move forward in the future and how best to serve the people of the community."
Farrell added that at a city council meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, a resolution will be put forward formalizing the pause and evaluating how to move forward. "We get hundreds if not thousands of these needles in homeless encampments and throughout the community."
Lubran told The Post Millennial that the representatives from SCORE told her that they carry NARCAN, and anti overdose medication, on the vehicles and that it was also being distributed.
Farrell discussed the heroin injection sites that were proposed for King County and the city council resolution forbidding them from being established in the city. King County called the facilities Community Health Engagement Locations (CHEL) following pushback to the title ‘safe injection sites.’ The county was planning on the facilities servicing, minors, pregnant women, first time injectors, those who arrive with children or minors and others.
Farrell was also concerned regarding a recent Washington Supreme Court ruling State v. Blake where the court ruled the state’s felony drug possession law unconstitutional, ultimately deciding that the law violated both federal and state constitutions because it doesn’t require prosecutors to prove that someone knowingly or intentionally possessed the drugs. As a former King County prosecutor, Farrell was concerned about it creating a new open market for illegal drugs. "We should be thinking about preventing people from starting to use these drugs."