PHILADELPHIA - United States Attorney William McSwain is continuing a court battle to prevent the opening of the nation’s first safe injection site in Philadelphia.
McSwain announced in a statement released Thursday morning that his office has filed a Notice of Appeal in Tuesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh. The ruling stated the Safehouse proposal to open a supervised injection site does not violate federal drug laws because the intent is to save lives, not encourage drug use.
Thursday, McSwain’s office also requested a stay Thursday to the district court’s final ruling to prevent the nonprofit’s site from opening next week “while the Third Circuit examines the legality of the proposed site.” He hopes a stay would also “prevent chaos that would occur should Safehouse lurch forward with an opening while the case is still ongoing."
“This request for a stay is critically important. My Office filed suit against Safehouse in the first place to bring order, reason and fairness to a potentially explosive situation. The current dispute over injection sites should be settled in the courts, not in the streets,” McSwain said.
The U.S. Attorney was critical of the press conference held by Safehouse and former governor Ed Rendell Wednesday morning that featured “understandably angry South Philadelphia residents.”
“This unnecessary chaos was on full display at Safehouse’s press conference yesterday morning. That press conference was a dumpster fire,” the U.S. Attorney said. "The press conference featured, among other things, understandably angry South Philadelphia residents yelling at former Governor Rendell, calling him unworthy of the title of Governor and berating him as a 'sneak' for hiding his intention to locate the first injection site in South Philadelphia."
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.”
Most thought the nation's first site would open in the epicenter of the city's opioid crisis - Kensington. Safehouse officials say there’s an overdose death weekly in South Philly, and Mayor Jim Kenney sees the need.
"It’s in their backyard already. It’s one of the areas in the city that has the highest use of opioids and heroin," the mayor explained.
While many South Philadelphia residents have opposed the idea of a supervised injection site in their neighborhood, they have also been frustrated with the way the plan was revealed to the public.
Safehouse plans to open the nation's first supervised injection site in early March.
“You blindsided us. You blindsided South Philly,” one outspoken resident said during the press conference. “You never came into our community. You never talked to us. You don’t come to our meetings. When we had a meeting about crime, where were you to tell us about what is going on?”
Safehouse officials have said they hope to address the community’s concerns in a future meeting.
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