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Supervised Injection Sites and Safehouse

Inside one of Vancouver's supervised injection facilities ELANA GORDON / WHYY

On December 6, the US Department of Justice requested a 2-month extension in a suit to open a supervised injection site in Philadelphia.

Supervised injection sites “provide spaces where persons who inject drugs (PWID) can inject under medical supervision and access harm reduction services.” These injection sites are a harm reduction strategy that has been proven to save lives in other countries and also decrease disease transmission.

And in Philadelphia, these sites are desperately needed. According to the Philadelphia Health Department, Philadelphia reported the highest number of unintentional overdose deaths on record, with 1,276 fatalities in 2021. Each death results in trauma, hardship, and grief by friends, family, and community; feelings that could avoided for many through the establishment of supervised injection sites.

Safehouse, a nonprofit whose mission is to save lives by providing a range of overdose prevention services, was formed in 2018 to address the crisis in Philadelphia. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, government lawyers and Safehouse have been negotiating the legal questions around opening a site in Philadelphia since last year. While there has been mutual agreement to postpone the opening in the past, there does not seem to be a reasoning behind the federal government’s latest request for an extension.

The legality of supervised injection sites has been the main focus; however, the federal government has “done nothing to stop the operation of supervised injection sites in New York City, which recently opened two sites, and Rhode Island, which voted to approve supervised sites in 2021.

While the question remains as to why the federal government has asked for another extension, there are no questions as to the need for a supervised injection site in Philadelphia. More individuals would be connected to the services they need. Individual, family, friend, and city-wide trauma could be decreased. And most importantly, lives would be saved.

You can sign the petition telling Philadelphia Mayor and City Council that Philly needs Overdose Prevention Centers here. Learn more about supervised injection sites from this blog post by Reclaim Philadelphia.


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