PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - It's a white hot controversial issue. Should heroin users inject legally under medical supervision? It's being done successfully in Canada says its supporters and now Philadelphia wants to explore the idea.
The ragged scar on Jose Rivera's arm is the marking of the heroin addiction that controls him. The 42-year-old says he'll use again soon.
A task force set-up by Mayor Kenney wants to know if addicts like Rivera would be better off injecting heroin in a doctor-supervised, walk-in setting.
"That's a good choice being supervised by a doctor that will let us overcome more overdoses," Rivera said.
It's a controversial idea--a political hot potato--but one Mayor Kenney's Health Commissioner wants to explore to battle the city's opioid epidemic.
"It's an opportunity to engage people where they are, prevents them from dying. Hopefully, in the long term get them into treatment," Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley.
There were 907 overdose deaths in the city in 2016--many in the Fairhill section home to the infamous "El Campamento"--running along a Conrail line--one of the worst drug encampments in the country.
Rivera says he's roamed the streets here for a decade.
At Friday's release of the task force report, Governor Wolf cautiously endorsed the idea.
"Yes. If that's is what the medical professionals think can work in that type of situation," he said.
The city's top cop says he wants to know much more.
"Obviously, to have police officers present during the administration of an illegal narcotic would be problematic," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said.
Jose Rivera thinks it could save his life.