Health experts want the city to experiment with giving Ritalin to meth addicts.
Health experts want the city to experiment with giving Ritalin to meth addicts, but the council is balking. Honeypowerr
The Seattle City Council clearly has an appetite for innovative social programs. One of the few areas the council broke from the mayor in their budget this year is over how much to fund the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which gives people suspected of low-level crimes housing and services instead of legal charges. The council increased the program’s funding from $2.2 million to $6 million; Durkan only proposed giving the diversion program $2.5 million.

But when the council passed their version of Seattle's $6.5 billion budget this afternoon—it's now headed to Durkan’s desk for signature or veto—a new idea from the same people who created LEAD was not as lucky.

Lisa Daugaard, the creator of LEAD and a MacArthur “genius” Fellow, wanted the council to also fund a new pilot program aimed at helping meth addicts reduce the harm of the addiction by giving them Ritalin.

Seattle is in the grip of a meth crisis. In King County, meth was involved in more fatal overdoses last year than any other drug, including heroin. But unlike heroin, there are no drugs available to help ween meth addicts off of the powerful stimulant. That’s where this meth pilot project, which I wrote about in a cover story last month, would come in.

The program would function similar to the way methadone clinics help heroin users. Methadone clinics prescribe opioid addicts a less-harmful opioid in the hopes that they can reduce and more safely manage their drug use. This pilot project would give meth addicts Ritalin, a stimulant that is often used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some doctors think it could help meth addicts reduce their meth use or quit entirely.

The Public Defender Association (PDA), which Daugaard is the executive director of, and a coalition of University of Washington doctors had asked Durkan to fund the project in her budget but she declined. Council Member Mike O’Brien also tried to add $500,000 in the council’s budget to fund a pilot of the program, but his amendment failed.

Jesse Rawlins, a project manager with the PDA, said in an e-mail that it's unfortunate the program didn’t get funding but that “we absolutely made ground in this effort. We forced current and future public policy conversations of the drug epidemic to rightfully focus on methamphetamine.”

Rawlins added that they're looking for other funding sources, too, but they still think the city is the most relevant place to get funding.

“While we continue exploring other funding opportunities, local government is responsible for innovative solutions to the methamphetamine issues that are impacting a wide range of constituencies,” Rawlins said. “The City of Seattle owns that responsibility and has the necessary resources to create more treatment options for methamphetamine use disorder.”

O’Brien, who did not run for reelection and will be leaving office at the end of the year, did not return requests for comment for this story.