Support, legalize safe injection sites in Philadelphia

Temple University Health System President and CEO Larry Kaiser is on the advisory committee of Safehouse, a nonprofit aiming to open the city’s and nation’s first comprehensive user engagement site, or safe injection site. 

The Editorial Board believes safe injection sites, while illegal under federal law, are a promising and necessary solution to the city’s opioid crisis. The site aims to prevent overdoses, connect people to treatment services and provide a safe place to use drugs under the supervision of medical staff. 

In Philadelphia, more than 1,200 people died in 2017 from drug-related overdoses, according to the city’s Department of Public Health. Earlier this month, Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order declaring a disaster in Kensington, which has the city’s highest overdose death rate, the Inquirer reported. The opioid crisis also extends outside the city and across the state, which prompted Gov. Tom Wolf to declare the epidemic a disaster emergency in January. 

“Having eyes on a person is the best way to get them quick and efficient emergency attention,” said Ronda Goldfein, vice president of the board of directors for Safehouse. “What [the city] is doing now is not working. If we can prevent fatalities, shouldn’t we try?”

It is crucial we go beyond the programs and resources that are already in place and find better solutions for those struggling with substance use disorder. 

We commend Kaiser for joining Safehouse and Temple for continuing to provide resources to those struggling with substance use disorder. 

The Temple Recovery Using Scientific Treatments Clinic will expand treatment services to treat 300 patients. Similarly, the Temple/Wedge Center of Excellence offers drug counseling, prenatal care and mental health services for pregnant women struggling with substance use disorder.

The university also formed the Task Force on Opioid and Related Drug Addiction and Recovery Support in May to explore the university’s policies to help students in recovery.

Overdose prevention and treatment must go hand in hand to ensure people don’t die from overdoses and can access recovery services. Safe injection sites have demonstrated their efficacy in Europe, Australia and Canada — it’s time the United States follows suit. 

We commend local officials for recognizing the opioid epidemic’s impact on Philadelphia and making strides to implement a solution we hope comes to fruition.

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