UNITED STATES—Philadelphia’s non-profit Safehouse will open the nation’s first supervised injection site next week. The facility will open in South Philadelphia at the Constitution Health Plaza. There will be a private entry for clients so they can be directed into the building without hassle.
Safehouse is a privately funded corporation whose mission is to save lives by providing overdose prevention sites. Their injection facility will allow people who struggle from drug addiction to come in and safely inject with a trained professional by their side.
A federal judge in Philadelphia declared a final ruling on Tuesday, February 25 that Safehouse will be allowed to open the first injection site in the U.S. The primary argument during the two-year court battle was the concern of the site being illegal due to the “Crack House” Statute. The law makes it a felony for a facility to knowingly maintain, rent, open, lease or use any place for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.
Safehouse’s site will not distribute or provide patients with narcotics. Patients must bring their own substances to the facility.
“People have to bring narcotics with them. We give them clean needles, and make sure the needle they used in Safehouse is confiscated before they go out of the street. But most importantly, we talk to them about treatment before they can inject themselves in front of nurses, in front of doctors. We have social workers talk to them about treatment,” said Safehouse Board of Directors and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell during a press conference on Wednesday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 68,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses in 2018. In Philadelphia, three to five people overdose a day.
“Philadelphia, like the nation, is in an overdose crisis,” said Safehouse Vice President and co-founder Ronda Goldfein. “We have the highest death rate of any big city in America. Three times that of Chicago, which is No. 2, and five times that of New York, which is No. 3.”
Additional services that the Safehouse facility will offer are physical and mental assessments, fentanyl test strips, wound care and HIV and Hepatitis counseling.
Members throughout the community voiced their concerns and support about the controversial facility during Wednesday’s press conference.
“Whether you are for the site or opposed to the site, what was done here was horrible and a disgrace,” said a Philadelphia office worker to the city council at Wednesday’s press conference. “You know the only reason you did this was because you wanted Philadelphia to become the first site in the country to be the first safe injection site.”
According to officials, the decision to open the site in South Philadelphia was due to Safehouuse’s budget. The non-profit is planning to open other facilities around the city if the current site is successful. It was announced on February 27 that Safehouse will delay the opening of the first supervised injection site because of community concerns.