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Mayor Harrell and Fentanyl Systems Work Group to Address Consumption of Illegal Drugs in Public Spaces 

Seattle – Continuing the work laid out in his Executive Order focused on making Seattle a safer, healthier city by addressing the crisis of fentanyl and synthetic drugs, Mayor Bruce Harrell today appointed a 24-member work group uniting the four corners of Seattle government – the Mayor’s Office, Seattle City Council, Seattle Municipal Court, and Seattle City Attorney – along with leaders in law enforcement, diversion programs, and service provision, and other subject matter experts to advance effective and sustainable solutions addressing illegal drug use in public spaces.   

“We are committed to addressing the deadly public health crisis playing out on our streets, holding dealers accountable for trafficking illegal drugs harming our communities, and advancing innovative health strategies to help those struggling with substance use disorder,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “There is a time for appropriate constitutional arrests when people are posing a threat to others; however, when people are a threat only to themselves, they need compassionate treatment. Updating the Seattle Municipal Code to align with recently passed state law makes sense, as does demonstrating how this additional tool will be applied and how it fits in the broader spectrum of treatment and diversion options.” 

Mayor Harrell announced that in the coming weeks, the Mayor’s Office will submit a new ordinance to reconcile Seattle Municipal Code with state law on public consumption of illegal drugs and describe and codify how that law will be applied. A subset of the larger Fentanyl Systems Work Group called for in the mayor’s Executive Order, this group will define solutions, improve system coordination, and develop implementation strategies. As the larger work group begins to assess diversion and treatment systems, it will expand to include additional stakeholders, including public health partners and public and private treatment providers.  

The mayor also announced plans to issue an Executive Order requiring better collection and data tracking related to substance use issues – including the number of people impacted, accessibility of treatment, use of law enforcement and diversion programs, and more.  

“Determining whether solutions are effective – and sustainable – requires strong and accurate data that can be used for objective analysis. This effort will be critical for tracking progress and improving services helping those in need,” said Mayor Harrell. “While some think we should work in silos or disparage those who disagree, this work is too important not to bring everyone to the table to identify solutions while people are dying in the streets. In One Seattle, we’re always willing to have the hard conversations necessary to build consensus and drive progress – and I know the members of the work group are up to the task.” 

Members of the work group include: 

  • Seattle Municipal Court Presiding Judge Faye Chess 
  • Seattle Municipal Court Judge Damon Shadid 
  • Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison 
  • Seattle City Councilmember and Public Safety Committee Chair Lisa Herbold 
  • Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis 
  • Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson 
  • Seattle City Councilmember Dan Strauss 
  • Seattle Police Department Chief Adrian Diaz 
  • Seattle Fire Department Chief Harold Scoggins 
  • Civilian-Assisted Response and Engagement Department Chief Reba Gonzales 
  • Seattle Human Services Department Director Tanya Kim 
  • Seattle Office of Civil Rights Director Derrick Wheeler-Smith 
  • Seattle and King County NAACP President Darrell Powell 
  • Purpose Dignity Action Co-Executive Director Lisa Daugaard 
  • REACH Director of Community Justice Brandie Flood 
  • Deputy City Attorney Scott Lindsay 
  • Criminal Division Chief Natalie Walton Anderson 
  • SPD Captain Dan Nelson 
  • SPD Lieutenant Robert Brown 
  • Seattle Human Services Department Deputy Director Michael Bailey 
  • Purpose Dignity Action Director of Engagement and Development Fé LopezGaetke 
  • LEAD Senior Project Manager Sean Blackwell 
  • REACH Director of Integrated Care Michelle Conley 
  • LEAD Program Supervisor Devin Majkut 

What People Are Saying

Seattle Municipal Court Presiding Judge Faye Chess 

“The municipal criminal justice system cannot address the drug epidemic gripping Seattle on its own. Our resources are severely constrained as we recover from the Covid pandemic and adjust to increasing case filings. There are minimal pathways to the necessary services and supports for those in our system currently, especially with the disappointing end to Seattle Community Court. We are committed to working with Mayor Harrell, City and Community leaders to develop actionable solutions that promote public safety while ensuring meaningful access to treatment and supportive services.” 

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison 

“Seattle is suffering – too many people are trapped in a cycle of addiction and overdose and their behaviors are causing real harm to our neighborhoods. We need a comprehensive path forward that includes treatment and enforcement. I’m thankful to the Mayor for helping convene a workgroup to help strike this balance and let us move forward with a municipal drug law that conforms with the State’s new drug law in effect July 1.” 

Councilmember Lisa Herbold, Seattle City Council 

“I do very sincerely appreciate the Mayor including my participation in the workgroup announced in Executive Order: Addressing the Opioid and Synthetic Drug Crisis in Seattle.  I hope that, like this letter from more than a hundred doctors calls for, we can focus our efforts on ‘smart, data-proven policy that will achieve our intended goals, not naive, reactive, and harmful policy that repeats the mistakes of the past.’” 

Councilmember Andrew Lewis, Seattle City Council 

“The fentanyl crisis plaguing our streets can only be tackled by the entire City government working together. I look forward to exploring with urgency the creation of a new therapeutic court to replace Community Court, well-resourced diversion programs, and on-demand treatment for our neighbors struggling with addiction.” 

Councilmember Sara Nelson, Seattle City Council 

“Our current approach to addressing Seattle’s drug crisis is failing and resulting in record overdose incidents and deaths. I’ve been leading with a sense of urgency on this issue, and will be pushing for the workgroup’s quick deliberation and action so that we adopt our legislation to codify state law into our municipal code. Together, we can use this tool to better incentivize addiction treatment and reduce the negative health and safety impacts of public drug use.” 

Councilmember Dan Strauss, Seattle City Council 

“We must address the drug crisis on our streets with solutions for our entire city. Fentanyl is not like any drug we have seen before, and this requires a different level of solutions to keep our public safe. I am committed to identifying and implementing solutions that stand the test of time.” 

Tara Moss and Lisa Daugaard, Co-Executive Directors, Purpose Dignity Action 

“Everyone in Seattle wants a more effective response to problems associated with fentanyl use. Yet, this is an area in which knee-jerk impulses can do more harm than good. In our haste to do something, it is easy to actually make the situation worse, and create new barriers to recovery, even with the best of intentions. What we do as a community now needs to be informed by what actually works. Our region has led the nation for over a decade in developing effective, innovative ways to actually engage people who use drugs in problematic ways, and foster recovery. We’ve demonstrated that law enforcement and courts can play constructive roles in this ecosystem — but that we need to lead with diversion to community-based care, housing, and case management. That must be the backbone. We are lucky to have law enforcement and prosecutor leaders who have embraced this framework, and our task now is to build on those assets and scale what works. We’re deeply grateful to Mayor Harrell for recognizing that we need to bring everyone to the table and hammer out agreements on the framework we need to advance.” 

Mayor Harrell with members of the work group.
Councilmember Sara Nelson, Dan Strauss, and Faye Chess
Chief Diaz before the press conference