Philadelphia Moves Closer To Establishing Supervised Injection Facility

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Philadelphia Moves Closer To Establishing Supervised Injection Facility

By Victoria Kim 01/25/18

“Comprehensive User Engagement Sites” will be part of larger efforts to address the city’s drug crisis.

Image: 
inside Insite, a safe injection site in Vancouver
inside Insite, a safe injection site in Vancouver Photo via YouTube

The city of Philadelphia is one step closer to establishing supervised injection facilities (SIFs), in a wide-ranging effort to reduce harm in the opioid use crisis.

They would be the first legally operated SIFs to open in the United States. Canada established the first legal SIF in North America, known today as Insite

The Vancouver facility, founded in 2003, helped inform the decision made by Philadelphia officials to greenlight SIFs in their city.

On Tuesday (Jan. 23), city officials announced that “Comprehensive User Engagement Sites” will be part of a larger effort to address Philadelphia’s drug crisis at a City Hall press conference. SIFs so far have the support of everyone from the mayor to the police commissioner.

A visit to Vancouver’s Insite was able to convince Police Commissioner Richard Ross that his city needed to follow suit. He said the experience changed him from “being adamantly against [the sites] to having an open mind.”

After reviewing the pros and cons, city officials concluded that one SIF would save up to 75 lives per year, as well as millions of dollars in public health costs. 

The goal of these facilities is to reduce harm and save lives by providing a neutral environment for people to use and ride out highs. They also make it easier to reach out to people who need help.

“We don’t want [people in addiction] dying on the street and we want to have a place to administer Narcan if necessary,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We also want an opportunity to speak to people about their future and getting their lives straight. They can’t do that under a train bridge or on a train track.”

According to the Inquirer, last year about 1,200 people died from drug use, the highest rate among major U.S. cities. In that time, 21,700 doses of Narcan were distributed. Shocking stories about the city’s “Camp Heroin” and Narcan-administering librarians illustrated the extent of the drug problem.

“We are facing an epidemic of historic proportions,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. “The people in the city of Philadelphia, our brothers, our sisters, our parents, our children, are dying. And they don’t need to die. And we have an obligation to do everything we can to prevent those people from dying.”

Farley said that private organizations will run the comprehensive user engagement sites. Their job will be to “meet [people in addiction] where they are, offer help getting treatment, and help them stay alive until they are ready to get treatment.”

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