Nonprofit says it will open injection site in Philadelphia

A Philadelphia nonprofit group says it will open a supervised injection site to combat overdose deaths after a federal judge rejected Justice Department efforts to block it

A Philadelphia nonprofit group said it will open a supervised injection site next week to combat opioid deaths after a federal judge rejected Justice Department efforts to block the plan.

U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh in a final ruling Tuesday said the Safehouse group’s plan doesn’t violate federal drug laws because the intent is to save lives, not encourage drug use.

The facility will be the first of its kind in the U.S., said U.S. Attorney William McSwain, an opponent of the idea.

Organizers are set to announce details on the opening, first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We are grateful that the court has once again found that saving lives is not a crime,” Safehouse board member Ronda Goldfein said Tuesday. “We see a great need in South Philly and plan to open there next week.”

McSwain vowed to keep fighting the plan and appeal the ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“What Safehouse proposes is a radical experiment that would invite thousands of people onto its property for the purpose of injecting illegal drugs,” McSwain said Tuesday. He said the Justice Department, the U.S. Surgeon General and local neighborhood groups oppose the plan.

Goldfein has said she hopes local authorities would resist McSwain’s threat to crack down on clients using the facility. The opening has been on hold for much of the past year while McSwain’s office argued that the plan violates a 1980s-era drug law known as the “crackhouse statute.”

Philadelphia Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner support supervised injection sites, which have long operated in Canada and Europe.

There were more than 1,100 overdose deaths in Philadelphia in 2018.

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