Prosecutors Go to Court in Support of Philly Safe Injection Site - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Prosecutors Go to Court in Support of Philly Safe Injection Site

The officials say that Safehouse's proposed injection site would prevent overdose deaths and help reduce the burden on the criminal justice system

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Safe Injection Site Could Open in Philadelphia

    Philly could soon be home to a safe injection site. It would be the first facility of its kind in the United States, offering people in active addiction a place to use drugs under the supervision of medical professionals. Proponents say it could save lives. But the idea is facing legal challenges and opposition from some local residents.

    (Published Thursday, March 21, 2019)

    What to Know

    • Nonprofit Safehouse wants to open the first supervised drug injection site in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood.

    • Kensington is a neighborhood at the center of the city's opioid crisis.

    • U.S. Attorney William McSwain has filed suit against Safehouse, arguing it's seeking to break the law.

    Seven states and more than 60 prosecutors and other law enforcement officials are opposing efforts by Philadelphia's top federal prosecutor to block a proposed drug injection site from opening in Philadelphia.

    State and local prosecutors and police officials from New York to Texas to California, as well as several former Justice Department officials, argued in a brief that Safehouse's proposed injection site would prevent overdose deaths and help reduce the burden on the criminal justice system.

    Attorneys general in Colorado, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and the District of Columbia made similar arguments.

    "Safehouse's proposed intervention — the operation of a safe injection site — is a critical measure designed to save lives," they wrote. "As laboratories of experimentation and the primary regulators of public health, states should be free to adopt cutting-edge medical interventions."

    Lessons Learned From Toronto's Safe Injection Sites

    [PHI] Lessons Learned From Toronto's Safe Injection Sites

    A safe injection site is the controversial idea being proposed to fight the opioid crisis in Philadelphia. As the debate in our area continues, NBC10’s Lauren Mayk takes a look at the impact of existing sites in Toronto.

    (Published Wednesday, May 15, 2019)

    Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, and other city officials announced last year they supported Safehouse's plan to open locations where people can shoot up under the supervision of a doctor or nurse who can administer an overdose antidote if necessary. Philadelphia has the highest opioid death rate of any large U.S. city.

    U.S. Attorney William McSwain, an appointee of President Donald Trump, sued Safehouse in February, arguing it's seeking to break the law and normalize the use of deadly drugs like heroin and fentanyl. The suit argues the federal Controlled Substances Act makes it illegal to operate any site "for the purpose of unlawfully using a controlled substance."

    In their brief, the state and local prosecutors argued that McSwain's office is misinterpreting the law. They said the Controlled Substances Act "cannot fairly be construed to prohibit operation of a facility specifically designed to address the most acute aspects of this national public health emergency."

    The prosecutors also argued that an aggressive approach to enforcement alienates communities, overburdens the criminal justice system and increases overdeath deaths.

    McSwain's office declined comment Thursday.