Councilmember Lewis outlines strategy to expand addiction treatment, diversion, and address public drug use 

Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia) issued the following statement: 

“Yesterday I joined the majority of City Councilmembers in voting “no” on Council Bill 120586, a bill that would have for the first time expanded the prosecutorial discretion of the City Attorney to include charging decisions for possession and use of drugs.   

I want to reiterate what I said from the dais, about my personal experience with this issue:  I think it is generally proper for us to do it. But with the ending of community court, without any insight into the implementation of this law, and with no guarantees that the Legislature’s intent for diversion and treatment would be prioritized, I cannot support this approach.   

As elected officials, we have a duty to the public to truly implement the Legislature’s recent legislation, both its language and its spirit. The legislation that was signed by Governor Inslee is primarily about encouraging higher use of evidence-based treatment programs that save lives and prevent relapse into addiction. While there is a law enforcement component of the legislation, this is meant to be a last resort, not the primary use.

I will propose legislation that adopts the Legislature’s Blake fix – fully – once I know that we have answered the key question of what happens to people if they are charged under its powers. 

The people of Seattle deserve a public and open discussion for how we are going to help our neighbors suffering from addiction. They deserve to see us deliberate on the plan for enforcement and the plan for treatment. I will work with my colleagues, our City Attorney’s Office, our Courts, and the public to: 

  • Develop a successor therapeutic court to Community Court. 
  • Develop and fully-fund treatment-based pre-file diversion. 
  • Work with Mayor Harrell to scale and deploy the plans outlined in his Executive Order on Seattle’s fentanyl crisis. 
  • And finally, after creating those necessary pathways for treatment and diversion, propose legislation making the Seattle Municipal Code consistent with State Law on possession and public use.”   

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