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Judge clears way for nation's first supervised safe-injection site in Philadelphia

Judge clears way for nation's first supervised safe-injection site in Philadelphia
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A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that plans can proceed for the nation’s first supervised-injection site in South Philadelphia, with operators saying it will open next week.

Organizers with Safehouse, a nonprofit formed to create the site, will announce further details of the plan Wednesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported

The opening of the site will end a two-year battle by the nonprofit to provide a place where people who are addicted to drugs can use them under medical supervision, be revived if they overdose and seek treatment, the Inquirer reported. 

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Safehouse has fought a multi-year legal battle to OK the site, with U.S. Attorney William McSwain arguing it would violate federal law.

McSwain said Tuesday he will appeal Judge Gerald A. McHugh’s ruling and claimed the site would lead to increased crime in the area, vowing to use “all enforcement tools” against the site including arrests and drug seizures if Safehouse opens the site before he exhausts his appeals.

“We believe that Safehouse’s proposed activity threatens to institutionalize the scourge of illegal drug use — and all the problems that come with it — in Philadelphia neighborhoods,” McSwain said in a statement. “In light of these concerns, Safehouse should act prudently and not rush to open while the appeal is pending. But if it does rush forward, my office will evaluate all options available under the law.”

Organizers, meanwhile, argue the extent of the opioid crisis in the city leaves them with no time to spare, with 3,500 Philadelphians killed by overdoses over the last three years.

“Philadelphia, like the nation, is in a crisis,” said Safehouse Vice President Ronda Goldfein. “And we have the opportunity to address that crisis; we owe it to Philadelphia to do that.”

Goldfein said a community meeting was planned for March 10 to address community concerns about the facility, saying “This is not pop-up tents and Narcan. This is a dedicated connection.”

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“The bottom line is that overdose prevention sites — which exist in more than 100 cities around the world — offer compassion for fellow human beings,” Mayor Jim Kenney (D) said in a statement Tuesday. “Our job as a city is to support efforts to alleviate suffering and to save lives.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (D), who has traded barbs with McSwain in the past over Krasner’s implementation of criminal justice reforms, also praised the ruling, tweeting “Once again, for the folks who can't see or hear past their Trumpian egos: Harm reduction SAVES LIVES.”