Defying threats from the Justice Department, public health advocates in Philadelphia have launched a nonprofit to run a facility to allow people to use illegal drugs under medical supervision. Board member Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor, says something needs to be done about the opioid epidemic.
Defying threats from the Justice Department, public health advocates in Philadelphia have launched a nonprofit to run a facility to allow people to use illegal drugs under medical supervision. It is the most concrete step yet the city has taken toward opening a d supervised injection site, reports WHYY radio in Philadelphia. The non-profit, called Safehouse, was formed after a political heavyweight, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, joined the board. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has told NPR that the Justice Department will not tolerate the opening of a supervised injection site in Philadelphia. Rosenstein said anyone involved in running one is “vulnerable to civil and criminal enforcement.” Says Rendell: “I have a message for Mr. Rosenstein: I’m the incorporator of the safe injection site nonprofit and they can come and arrest me first.”
Opioid addiction has worsened in Philadelphia and nationwide in recent years since the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl has caused a rise in overdose deaths. In Philadelphia last year, 1,217 people died of overdoses. “Most of them died alone in the year 2017. It’s the highest rate per capita of any big city in America,” says Rendell, noting that the city has one of the worst per capita overdose rates, surpassed only by the county that includes Pittsburgh. “We got to do something to stop it.” Other cities grappling with the opioid crisis, including New York, Seattle and San Francisco, are considering opening supervised injection sites, but none of them has done so yet. California Gov. Jerry Brown law that would have allowed San Francisco to open one, saying it would enable illegal drug use. Rendell, a former mayor and district attorney of Philadelphia, says sometimes you have to ignore bad laws in order to pursue good policy. Although 100 supervised injection sites operate worldwide, the U.S. has none.