The first supervised drug injection site in the United States will open in Philadelphia, which will allow people to use illegal drugs under medical supervision.
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the proposed facility will not violate federal law. Safehouse, the nonprofit who proposed the facility, aims to provide a safe environment where people struggling with addiction may use their own drugs. They plan to open their doors in South Philadelphia next week, the organizers announced just hours after the ruling.
The facility will also offer counseling about treatment options, social services, and emergency medical care. The primary goal is to promote public health and the health of those struggling with addiction until they are ready to go into recovery, supporters told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The judge ruled that the facility would not violate the Controlled Substances Act. Similar facilities exist in over 100 cities around the world, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. Safehouse will be the first of its kind in the United States, the Inquirer reported.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain told the Inquirer that he will pursue an appeal against the ruling. He has warned Safehouse against opening before the appeals process is complete, threatening arrests, drug seizures, and closure of the facility.
Similar threats of arrests were made in the 1990s when Prevention Point Philadelphia's needle exchange was first legalized via executive order. In 2018, the syringe exchange, which provides sterile needles to combat the spread of infectious disease, dispensed almost three million needles. Over 10 years, it has prevented over 10,000 new HIV cases, Philadelphia Magazine reported.
Philadelphia sees about 1,100 overdose deaths per year, according to The New York Times.
Safehouse plans to make the South Philadelphia location the first of several across the city. Similar safe injection sites have been considered by other U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, and San Francisco.
College junior Grace Mock said that she supported the opening of the safe injection site. “Other solutions haven’t been working,” Mock said. “There have been a lot of issues with people overdosing and also transmitting infectious diseases like Hep C and HIV from sharing needles.”
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