Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jul 2019
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Jon Kamp


Authorities from seven states, the District of Columbia and some major
U.S. cities are backing a Philadelphia effort to open a supervised
drug-injection site, which the federal government is trying to stop in

Safehouse, a nonprofit in Philadelphia, seeks to open a site where
people can use drugs in a safe and sanitary environment with help to
avoid overdose fatalities. Federal prosecutors sued the nonprofit in
February, arguing it would violate federal law by creating a place for
people to use illegal drugs such as heroin and bootleg fentanyl.

Cities including New York, San Francisco and Seattle, where there are
also plans to add safe sites for drug users, filed a brief Wednesday
in support of the Philadelphia nonprofit. Another filing from
attorneys general, all Democrats, included chief legal officers from
Colorado, Michigan, Oregon and the District of Columbia.

The civil suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania has created a legal showdown over a concept that has
already proven hard to implement in the U.S. over fears of a federal

Supporters say these sites can save lives because they offer clean
supplies, medical help and serve as gateways to treatment.

Philadelphia is one of the hardest-hit cities in a national drug
crisis that led to 70,000 fatal overdoses in 2017, the last year of
complete federal data.

Safehouse's plan "is a critical measure designed to save lives and to
fill a time-sensitive gap in medical care that many localities
struggle to overcome," the attorneys general argued in their brief to
the court on Wednesday.

Opponents of the supervised-injection plan include civic associations
in and around a drug-ravaged neighborhood in north Philadelphia and a
local branch of the nation's largest police union.

An injection site would exacerbate a crisis that already causes crime
and open drug use in the neighborhood, they argued in their filing.

"Safehouse claims it should be above the law because it believes its
good intentions with respect to one group-those who suffer from
addiction-permit it to ignore other innocent victims of the illegal
drug trade," the opponents said.

Proponents have argued that evidence beyond U.S. borders, including in
Canada, has shown the merits of creating safe places for drug users.

Supporters also included a group of 64 current and former prosecutors
and law-enforcement officials; nine Philadelphia-area community
organizations; religious leaders; Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and
the city's health commissioner.

Philadelphia hasn't committed to opening its own injection site, but
has supported the idea of letting private organizations open them.
Safehouse's board includes ex-Philadelphia mayor and ex-Pennsylvania
Gov. Ed Rendell.

Safehouse Vice President Ronda Goldfein said the nonprofit wants to
open multiple sites in Philadelphia, including the hard-hit Kensington
neighborhood. First they have to clear the legal hurdle.

"We are respectful and certainly waiting for the court's ruling," Ms.
Goldfein said. "We're not trying to drive this stuff
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