Safe Injection Site Philadelphia Safehouse

(Image: Insite in Vancouver, Creative Commons)

The opioid epidemic has devastated communities across the United States. From rural towns to major cities, the crisis has reached every corner of the nation and impacted people from all socio-economic backgrounds. Approximately 130 people lose their lives each day to opioids, and public health officials expect the number of fatalities to increase in 2019.

Over the past year, activists have taken opioid profiteers to court and major nonprofit institutions have turned down pharmaceutical industry donations in protest. Despite these positive developments, opioids continue to ruin lives every day.

The crisis has led some in the nonprofit sector to champion safe injection sites that would allow people to use drugs under medical supervision. These clinics would furnish clean needles and provide social services to individuals struggling to break out of addiction.

Currently, there is only one safe injection site in North America: Insite, located in Vancouver, Canada. In the United States, federal authorities have prevented organizations from creating similiar institutions despite evidence indicating that safe injection sites save lives.

The nonprofit Safehouse has chosen to fight back. The organization issued a court filing in early April that makes an impassioned case for opening a safe injection site in Philadelphia, which currently witnesses more fatal overdoses than any other major U.S. city:

Medically supervised consumption sites are not a new phenomenon; they have been in operation for more than 30 years. More than 120 sites operate openly worldwide, and not a single fatal overdose has been reported inside any similar facility,” the filing reads. Extensive public health research of medically supervised consumption sites reports a decrease in overdose deaths in their immediate vicinity, a decrease in the public use of drugs, a decrease in discarded drug paraphernalia waste, and a decrease in the transmission of infectious diseases.

It is unclear how long the organization’s legal battle will take. In the meantime, Safehouse’s board has decided to move forward securing funding and facilities for a future safe injection site.

As legal hurdles continue to block inventive solutions for dealing with this public health crisis, more lives that may have otherwise been saved will be lost.


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