SOUTH PHILADELPHIA - Constitution Health Plaza has canceled plans for a safe injection site at the South Philadelphia medical facility, according to a spokesperson.
"We have made the decision to cancel plans to locate a supervised injection site at Constitution Health Plaza. The opioid crisis continues to devastate our nation, our city and the South Philadelphia neighborhood we call home. We made the original decision to provide space to Safehouse to play a positive role in providing an innovative way to bring needed services to those suffering from addiction. As one of the largest institutions in our community, we felt we had a responsibility to do something to save lives," Anthony Campisi, a spokesman for Constitution Health Plaza in South Philadelphia, said Thursday.
Constitution Health Plaza says their relationship with the tenants in the building and the neighborhood is important to them in order to provide premier health care to the community.
"We believe in the good intentions of all involved – on both sides of this issue – and want to thank you for your honest communications with us over the past few days. We want you to know that we have listened. We apologize. And we want to ensure open lines of communication moving forward. We want to thank Mayor Kenney and Safehouse for their work in seeking to find new ways to tackle the opioid epidemic," the statement said.
Mayor Kenney released a statement Thursday reading in part, “In light of this development and the strong concerns voiced over the past two days, it’s clear that no site will open imminently. I am glad that this will allow Safehouse more time to examine its options, and to engage the community. It will allow those with concerns more time to get answers. And it will allow everyone to take a deep breath and focus on the ultimate goal of this effort: to save the lives of fellow Philadelphians who are struggling with addiction. I remain convinced that overdose prevention sites do save lives — as they have in more than 100 cities around the world. I remain committed to moving forward in a deliberate, thoughtful, and collaborative way to open a site that will save lives.” Read the mayor's full statement, here.
The news comes after city officials say Safehouse had decided to delay the opening at this site scheduled for next week. Councilman Mark Squilla says he's happy that Safehouse who would have leased the space and run the site is reconsidering. Councilman Squilla says he looks forward to more conversation and acknowledging that the opioid epidemic needs to be addressed.
"We need to find ways to help them but also make sure we engage the community who is going to possibly be impacted by something like this," he said.
He says Safehouse has agreed to a meeting on March 10 to further discuss plans of how this would work wherever the site goes.
South Philadelphia residents, including city officials, made sure their voices were heard as they opposed plans to open a safe injection site during a Wednesday morning press conference.
In a final ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh said the Safehouse proposal does not violate federal drug laws because the intent is to save lives, not encourage drug use.
Wednesday morning’s press conference featured testimony on the potential impact of a safe injection site from individuals whose lives have been impacted by addiction. Rendell also took to the podium to explain why he decided to get personally involved in the cause.
“1,000 people-plus have been dying for the last three years in Philadelphia. Think about that,” Rendell said. “The murder rate soars over 300 and everyone goes crazy. The murder rate is out of control, 300 of our young people are dying. Well, three and half times that many people die of opioid overdoses.”
FOX 29’s Jeff Cole caught up with Mayor Kenney Thursday morning to talk more about the issue and the claim that Safehouse and the city snuck the site into South Philly without warning or any public testimony on Thursday morning.
During the five-minute interview, Mayor Kenney stood by his previous support of supervised injection sites, while pointing out that the city did not choose the location. He went on to add that he was “supportive of people not dying of drug overdoses” as he noted that a 31-year-old man died of an overdose near the proposed site Wednesday afternoon.
The mayor also talked about the stigma that comes with treating addiction.
“The issue is that people who are addicted to narcotics, that get to heroin, are no different than anyone with high blood pressure, or diabetes, or cancer,” Mayor Kenney claimed. “We don’t question the fact that people go for treatment for these diseases. This disease is a disease, and South Philadelphia is the second-highest location for this disease.”
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