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Mayor Harrell Announces Efforts to Improve Addiction Treatment, Proposes Legislation to Reduce Public Consumption of Fentanyl and Other Illegal Drugs

Advancing health-focused approach, Mayor Harrell announces spending plan for $27 million investment toward innovative facilities and treatment programs to address addiction 

Informed by law enforcement, service providers, and impacted communities, the mayor’s proposed legislation will emphasize diversion and health programs while allowing arrests for public consumption of illegal drugs 

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced a set of new actions to reduce the harmful impacts of fentanyl and other illegal drugs on Seattle communities. Focusing on innovative and proven solutions to treat addiction, Mayor Harrell introduced a plan to invest $27 million toward facilities, treatments, and services to address the opioid crisis – a significant investment to save lives and improve access to care. With a first-of-its-kind emphasis on diversion programs, the mayor also announced a new legislative proposal to codify state law making public consumption of illegal drugs a gross misdemeanor, aiming to connect users to services and keep residents safe in public places. 

“The harm caused by fentanyl and other illegal drugs in our communities is as obvious as these drugs are deadly – they are killing the people using them and creating unsafe and unwelcoming conditions for all Seattle residents,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Success will not – and cannot – be measured on how many people cycle through jail; instead, our focus is on improving connections to lifesaving treatment and expanding program options to better meet the needs of those with substance use issues. Today’s announcements represent important steps forward toward a safer, healthier Seattle, as we continue to act with urgency to build out a bold health-first approach, help those in need, curtail impacts of public drug consumption, and hold dealers and traffickers accountable.” 

Aligned with similar national trends, overdose deaths rose 72% from 2021 to 2022 in Seattle, with the majority attributed to fentanyl and methamphetamines. Mayor Harrell is committed to a dual public health and public safety approach to addressing the crisis of fentanyl and other illegal drugs as defined in Executive Order 2023-04: Addressing the Opioid and Synthetic Drug Crisis in Seattle

Supporting new efforts highlighted in that Executive Order, the mayor’s plan invests over $27 million toward enhanced treatment facilities, new addiction services, and improved overdose response. Mayor Harrell will invest $7 million this year toward capital investments in facilities to provide services such as post-overdose care, opioid medication delivery, health hub services, long-term care management, and drop-in support. 

Using funding from opioid lawsuit settlements resulting from the City’s efforts to hold large pharmaceutical companies accountable, and considering input from the community stakeholders on the use of these funds, the mayor is also dedicating $20 million toward a long-term multi-year strategy and plan to increase treatment and overdose response services, including Seattle Fire Department’s new post overdose response team, access to mobile opioid medication delivery, and harm reduction services.  

In June, the mayor formed the Fentanyl Systems Work Group – a 24-member task force of subject matter experts and community leaders dedicated to improving health and safety outcomes by advancing sustainable solutions to the opioid crisis. Using input from members of this group, which include law enforcement, service providers, and impacted communities, the mayor is proposing a new bill, which would:  

  • Codify state law and make public consumption of illegal drugs a gross misdemeanor in the city of Seattle. 
  • For the first time in the City’s history, designate diversion and treatment as the preferred approach to addressing substance use issues – connecting people with care and responding to a public health crisis with evidence-based health solutions. 
  • Define a new threat of harm standard – differentiating between drug use that threatens others versus the individual alone, recognizing the real and perceived danger of consumption of illegal drugs in public places, and aiming to support safe and welcoming neighborhoods by reducing public use. 

Next week, the mayor will issue an Executive Order providing guidance to Seattle Police Department officers on how the law should be applied, further detailing threat of harm standards, and defining tools to collect and analyze data to measure success. The Fentanyl Systems Work Group will continue to meet with a focus on court systems, arrest and pretrial diversion, and treatment programs – advancing efforts to improve connections between systems, map and identify gaps in diversion programs, and strengthen partner coordination.  

So far this year SPD, in collaboration with our state and federal partners, has seized nearly two million fentanyl pills – enough to kill the entire city with a drug that is 50 times more powerful than heroin. Since the issuance of Executive Order 2023-04 in April, SFD’s Health One program expanded to focus on post overdose response; the City is taking steps to begin in October an innovative contingency management program with Plymouth Housing; and new program plans are advancing for a post-overdose diversion facility, increased mobile opioid medication delivery, and expanded naloxone in the city’s highest overdose locations.  


Councilmember Andrew Lewis (District 7, Queen Anne to Pioneer Square) 

“This package is a balanced approach to respond to the crisis fentanyl has brought to our streets.  This legislation, that I will co-sponsor, responds to the needs I laid out at the beginning of this process and gives our first responders the tools they need to divert to services where possible and make arrests when necessary. I applaud Mayor Harrell for convening the key partners in city government to get this critical work done.” 

Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6, Northwest Seattle)  

“Thank you to Mayor Harrell for convening the people, departments, and separately elected officials needed to work together to solve the issues we face. We need to lead with diversion and use every tool in the toolbox to address the crises before us: opioid addiction, overdoses, and public drug use. Diversion and treatment need to be at the core of our approach of these issues to address the underlying causes. I’m heartened by the large investment the City will be making towards treatments and services to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people impacted by addiction.” 

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Z. Diaz 

“We are committed to aggressively targeting the supply chain of fentanyl and other deadly drugs, and to support those struggling with addiction. It’s a dual approach to a complex problem; one that involves not just enforcement, but prevention, education, and treatment.” 

Tara Moss & Lisa Daugaard, Co-Executive Directors, Purpose Dignity Action (PDA) 

“There are far too many people on our streets with serious substance use issues, in dire need of support and urgent intervention. We know that jail and prosecution are not how that gets turned around for most people, so we’re very glad to see the energy being dedicated in the mayor’s task forces toward designing a more comprehensive response.”