Jeff Duchin, MD
Health Officer and Chief
Communicable Disease Epidemiology & Immunization Section
Public Health Seattle and King County, Washington
Like many other areas in the US, the Seattle region faces a crisis of overdose deaths and addiction struggles from heroin and opioids—more of its citizens now die from drugs than car accidents: someone every 36 hours. Besides the human and family tragedies involved, there is also the civic plague of drug paraphernalia being used and discarded in public spaces including storefronts, restaurant restrooms, public parks, alleys, etc.
Officials believe this epidemic could be curbed through medical and social intervention—increasing access to medication-assisted treatment and keeping addicts alive who are not yet able to enter treatment. King County therefore seeks to open supervised injection facilities—dubbed “CHELs” (community health engagement locations), as recommended by a city/county Heroin and Opioid Addiction Task Force that Jeff co-chaired last fall. If successful, these would be the first such sites in the US. However, they are not a new development, but have been used successfully for over 30 years in Europe, Australia and Canada, and have been endorsed by the American Public Health Association, the Infectious Disease Society of America, and the HIV Medical Association. The local Board of Health and the city and county have given the go-ahead, although sites have not yet been chosen. Suitable sites are hard to find because they need to large enough for a range of health services, located in areas where public drug injection is occurring, and in neighborhoods that welcome a public facility.
Chief medical and science officer for public health of Seattle & King County; and a Professor of Medicine (Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) at the University of Washington.
Jeff’s Personal Background
Grew up in New Jersey, two miles north of Asbury Park (so he also likes Bruce Springsteen’s music—especially his first couple albums). MD at Rutgers (‘85), ER doctor at Penn, infectious disease fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University in Philly. Got into public health at the CDC in Atlanta where he completed Epidemic Intelligence Service training in ‘94, then was assigned to Seattle in 1995 for another three years. Joined King County public health department nearly 20 years ago.
Puts more miles on bicycle (10,000 a year) than car. Member of the Cascade Bicycle Club (largest in US), has customized titanium frame made by legendary Seattle-based Bill Davidson.