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April 17, 2019

City takes a breather on safe-injection sites to address public safety concerns

'While the City tackles matters of public safety, I urge Safehouse to look at other prospective sites,' Kenney says in statement

Addiction Safe Injection Sites
Carroll - Kensington Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

North Front Street in Kensington.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Wednesday indicated the city would slow down its efforts to open an overdose prevention site due to public safety concerns.

Kenney, who met Monday with community members and representatives of Safehouse, the organization working to open a safe injection site, said the city still needs such a place, but that safety concerns raised by the residents and business owners in Kensington would have to be addressed first.

Safehouse had identified a prospective location in Kensington, one of Philadelphia's most drug-addled neighborhoods. But Kenney is now encouraging that new prospective sites be considered by Safehouse, a privately-funded Pennsylvania nonprofit whose mission is to save lives by providing a range of overdose prevention services.

Kenney indicated it could take at least several months to work through solutions to those community concerns.

Here is Kenney's statement in full:

“With over an estimated 1,100 overdose deaths last year, it is clear that the opioid crisis still grips Philadelphia. People die every day, and we believe that Overdose Prevention Sites (OPS) can save lives and should be located in the heart of the crisis.

“However, valid public safety concerns have been raised by the community in and around Kensington, and I have informed Safehouse that those safety concerns must be addressed before the establishment of an OPS.

“While the City tackles matters of public safety, I urge Safehouse to look at other prospective sites. Over the next few months, the City pledges to work closely with community members so they understand why establishing an OPS is important — the data says that it will save lives, reduce the transmission of infectious disease, and help connect individuals suffering with substance use disorder to treatment and other services. It will also reduce the litter associated with open-air drug use.

“Kensington is the epicenter of the opioid crisis, but we know that addiction is a citywide problem. We cannot open one OPS in Kensington and expect it to address this issue at scale. Multiple sites are needed and should be explored by Safehouse or other OPS operators.

“As we’ve learned from the Philadelphia Resilience Project, we must balance the needs of those suffering from addiction with the needs of residents whose neighborhoods have been deeply impacted by this epidemic. The City is committed to partnering with the community to address their concerns and to engage in an open and honest dialogue on OPS and any other issues they face.

“In order for Philadelphia’s OPS to be a national model for harm reduction, we must ensure that it is implemented respectfully and in partnership with diverse stakeholders every step of the way. We are committed to that work.”

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