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Philadelphia takes bold step toward opening drug injection sites

Philadelphia is welcoming private organizations to set up medically supervised drug injection sites amid an unprecede...

Posted: Jan 24, 2018 6:54 PM
Updated: Jan 24, 2018 6:55 PM

Philadelphia is welcoming private organizations to set up medically supervised drug injection sites amid an unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in recent years, city officials announced Tuesday.

The walk-in facilities would also offer access to sterile needles, the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone, wound care and referral to social services.

Philadelphia is encouraging private organizations to fund and establish supervised places for people to use drugs

Supervised injection sites have been shown to reduce overdose deaths and infections like HIV

There are currently no legally sanctioned supervised injection sites in the United States.

"Incidents of overdose have steadily increased to an alarming degree," Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Tuesday, describing the city's move as a "bold action to help save lives."

In 2016, the city recorded 907 overdose deaths, more than 80% of which involved opioids like heroin and fentanyl, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. This number is double what it was in 2013.

That same year, the state of Pennsylvania had the third highest number of drug overdose deaths in the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In December, health experts in Philadelphia released a review of the scientific evidence behind supervised injection sites that underlines their efficacy in preventing deaths and infections, such as HIV and hepatitis C. Up to 76 overdose deaths per year could be prevented with one site in Philadelphia, the report concludes, based in part on a 2008 study of North America's first supervised injection site, in Vancouver.

Canada's health department now lists more than two dozen approved sites for supervised injection on their website.

The city of Seattle, Washington is also planning to open and manage a supervised injection site, according to a report by Philadelphia officials. In contrast, Philadelphia is looking to private organizations to fund, operate and provide a location for these facilities. San Francisco and New York are also considering supervised sites.

In November, a delegation of Philadelphia officials visited both Vancouver and Seattle. The trip "really hit home" that an injection site would be "just one piece of the puzzle to address the opioid crisis," said Eva Gladstein, Philadelphia's deputy managing director of Health and Human Services.

Supervised injection sites have faced opposition in the past. Some believe that they implicitly condone drug use and lead to increased use.

"There is no safe way to inject heroin, fentanyl and carfentanyl," Pensylvania's attorney general, Josh Shapiro, said in a statement Tuesday in response to the city's announcement.

"Sanctioning a 'safe injection site' presents significant public safety concerns, and changes in state and federal law would need to occur for these sites to operate legally," Shapiro said.

In support of the harm-reduction strategy, Dr. Thomas Farley, the city's health commissioner, said in a statement, "We cannot just watch as our children, our parents, our brothers, and our sisters die of drug overdose."

"We have to use every proven tool we can to save their lives until they recover from the grip of addiction," he said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 13260

Reported Deaths: 625
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds89324
Lauderdale67855
Madison65421
Scott58910
Neshoba51231
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Jones46713
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Leake38410
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Smith13110
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Kemper12510
Lafayette1233
Carroll11310
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Lee1045
Clay993
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Lawrence901
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Perry462
Jefferson400
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Choctaw292
Webster271
Pontotoc263
Franklin252
Tishomingo250
Quitman240
Tallahatchie241
George191
Alcorn151
Benton140
Greene71
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 14478

Reported Deaths: 551
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile1996109
Jefferson161488
Montgomery118630
Marshall6499
Tuscaloosa50512
Lee49832
Franklin4476
Shelby43319
Tallapoosa39662
Butler34411
Chambers33623
Madison2964
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DeKalb2213
Coffee2001
Walker1981
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Sumter1916
Lowndes18610
Houston1644
Morgan1621
Autauga1593
Calhoun1413
Choctaw1414
Pike1360
Colbert1362
Marengo1336
Hale1293
Russell1280
Lauderdale1282
Randolph1257
Wilcox1187
Marion11310
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Barbour1101
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Greene894
Chilton871
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Limestone740
Jackson692
Covington651
Washington645
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Henry562
Blount491
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Lawrence420
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Perry310
Monroe282
Clay272
Conecuh251
Lamar200
Cleburne131
Fayette110
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