PHILADELPHIA - The controversy surrounding potentially opening safe injection sites in Philadelphia is once again heating up as Mayor Jim Kenney continues to lend his support to the movement and those opposed have held protests.
The last time a safe injection site was proposed in Philadelphia – about two years ago- a federal appeals court ruled against it.
Since then, New York became the first city in the country to open such a site last year. Officials there say the site has already stopped more than 100 overdoses.
Mayor Kenney spoke with FOX 29’s Steve Keeley late last month and reiterated that he’s seen such operations work in Canada – in both Toronto and Vancouver. He added that he understood that people were frightened by the idea.
"I know people are frightened by it, but they don’t understand the fact that people are overdosing in their basements, overdosing in alleyways, overdosing in lots of places where we can’t save them," Kenney said. "While I believe that it is understandable that people don’t understand what this is about – what it’s about is people who are addicted who are injecting heroin, and could die. We could get them in a place where we can council them, help them stay alive."
Kenney added that the sites, if successful, would mean that Philadelphia residents would see less drug use, or the effects of it on the streets.
"If we can get them off the sidewalk into a building, people will see less of the injections going on. Kids won’t see it with the frequency they see it. The needles will stay inside the building as opposed to being distributed on the street and we’ll keep some people alive," Kenney said. "We just have to keep on working on it for people’s mentalities to understand that this is something that’s harm prevention and not encouraging drug use.
Kenney says that the city is in discussions with the Department of Justice, and that any operations of a safe injection site would be privately run. He added that no location or site had been picked.
Still, not everyone is happy about the proposal. A protest was held in Center City Wednesday afternoon.