VOCAL-WA provides a home base for people with lived experience of homelessness, drug use, and other systemic harm, who seek to affect public policy related to those issues.
PDA and our Racial Disparity Project (1998-2013; the RDP became the basis for the continuation of PDA as an organization after 2013, when King County absorbed public defense services in-house) had long offered a home base for clients and individuals directly impacted by the criminal legal system to organize and participate in public policy discussions.
Starting in 2015, this commitment was formalized when PDA was authorized by Voices of Community Activists & Leaders, VOCAL-NY, to launch their first affiliate outside of New York State. VOCAL is a “by and for” effort to elevate and support people who are or have been homeless, who use or have used drugs, and/or who have been exposed to the criminal legal system, to engage in organizing and public policy advocacy. VOCAL-WA’s first, and very impactful, campaign resulted in acceptance of the concept of safer consumption practices as part of Seattle and King County’s public health approach to drug use, with the King County Opioid Task Force recommending supervised consumption facilities in 2016.
In 2021, VOCAL-WA convened and facilitated the Overdose Emergency & Innovative Recovery Task Force, which made recommendations to local policy makers on a range of steps to address drug user health needs, and, with support from Seattle-King County Public Health, convened the Council of Expert Advisors on Drug Use to advise SKCPH on drug user health priorities.