Director’s Corner: A successful approach to addiction demands political courage and compassion
The obvious question that arises is “What? Why?”
The answer comes down to this. In the hierarchy of the deserving and undeserving poor, drug users rate solidly in the Let ‘Em Die zone. And in a city where disgust over visible misery now animates our elections, inaction is the safer political path.
Kris Nyrop has been on the front lines of drug use harm reduction for 31 years, and was around when needle exchange began as fringe movement. I asked him how Seattle could just sit on $1.4 million in relief in the face of such an obvious crisis. He offered a litany of lacks.
“Lack of political will. Lack of sense of urgency. Lack of any compassion. Lack of consideration.”
“It’s about who’s dying,” he continued. “If we had two deaths here of Ebola or West Nile Virus or something like that, they’d be allocating millions of dollars for that and be freaking the fuck out. This is about disposable people.”
Nyrop likened the lack of response to overdose deaths to inaction over the Green River Killer.
“When women involved in sex work were dying, no one cared. The only people who gave a rat’s ass were the people on the front lines and the social workers. Everyone else just sat around and twiddled their thumbs. The people who care about overdose deaths are the family members and friends of people who die, and police and medics.”
“The politicians who could actually make a difference here aren’t doing squat. They allocate $1.4 million and it’s just sitting in a bank account somewhere.”
The Public Defender Association is spearheading a campaign to put those funds to use, and there’s no shortage of ideas for how to reduce the death count.