October 02, 2019
Nonprofit organization Safehouse's proposed safe injection site in Philadelphia, which would be the first in the U.S., does not violate federal laws, a district judge ruled Wednesday.
Safehouse's ultimate goal is to "reduce drug use, not facilitate it," U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh's deemed in his written opinion. The safe injection site would allow people to use illegal opioids, like heroin, while under medical supervision.
McHugh's ruling stands athwart the U.S. Justice Department's efforts to block supervised injection facilities. Last August, then-U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said such facilities would violate federal laws, and the Trump administration promised to crack down on any cities where supervised injection sites opened.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department sued the city of Philadelphia over the proposed supervised injection sites.
In April, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the city needs an overdose prevention site, but wanted Safehouse to look outside of a proposed location in Kensington because of what he called "valid public safety concerns" in the community.
There were more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in the U.S., including 47,600 involving opioids in 2017, according to the latest figures from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The rate of drug overdose deaths increased significantly in Pennsylvania by 16.9 percent from 2016 to 2017.
Supervised injection sites are legal in Canada. Medical professionals in provinces like Ontario and British Columbia have been vocal advocates for the sites' effectiveness.
University of Toronto physician Inderveer Mahal touted the effectiveness of supervised injection sites in an op-ed:
"Insite allows users to access clean supplies and inject in a supervised setting with trained professionals who can act immediately to reverse an overdose. Since opening in 2003, 3.6 million patients have injected under supervision at Insite alone. There have been 6,440 overdose interventions and zero deaths."
McHugh's ruling seemed to agree with the effectiveness of safe injection sites.
"No credible argument can be made that a constructive lawful purpose is rendered predatory and unlawful simply because it moves indoors," McHugh wrote. "Viewed objectively, what Safehouse proposes is far closer to the harm reduction strategies expressly endorsed by Congress."