Seattle may be alone in the region in opening a safe consumption site.
Will Seattle end up alone in the region in opening a safe consumption site? RICK BARRY

The Bellevue City Council will hear public testimony tonight about whether to permanently ban safe consumption sites in the city.

In August, the Bellevue council passed a temporary moratorium on safe consumption sites. In order to make that ban permanent, they have to hold a public hearing. That hearing happens tonight at 8 pm. As the Seattle Times' Bob Young pointed out when the interim ban passed, it's unlikely Bellevue would have gotten one of the sites anyway and city leaders say they're concerned a safe consumption site could make it harder to open a nearby homeless shelter.

But Bellevue is joined by Kent, Renton, Federal Way, and Auburn in banning the sites. With those bans, it's becoming harder for supporters of the sites to figure out where they will be able to open one outside of Seattle.

More than 300 people in King County died in drug-related deaths last year and two-thirds of those were overdoses related to opioid use.

Safe consumption sites would provide a place for people to use illegal drugs like heroin under the supervision of medical staff on hand to prevent fatal overdoses. ("Safe consumption" rather than "safe injection" means smoking drugs would also be allowed. That's key to avoiding a perpetuation of racial disparity in the government's response to drug use.) The sites would also offer connections to treatment services. Last fall, a task force recommended opening two safe consumption sites in King County, with one outside the city of Seattle. The sites are just one of many recommendations to address the opioid epidemic. The effort is now stalled in bureaucratic delay, although another group in the University District says it's time to open a site "by any means necessary."

Meanwhile, the City of Seattle last week asked a King County judge to allow the city to join in a lawsuit defending safe consumption sites. The suit challenges a proposed initiative that would ban the sites countywide.

In a motion to intervene, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes argues that Seattle has an interest in making sure a safe consumption site can open outside the city.

Opening only one site inside Seattle "would create an undue financial and humanitarian burden on the City," Holmes wrote, "as it must be assumed that that victims of opioid use who are residents of areas within the county outside of Seattle would flock to the Seattle site, leaving Seattle with the burden of servicing all county victims."