By Vince Lattanzio
Philadelphia is looking to establish supervised drug injection sites as the opioid epidemic cements its place as the deadliest public health crisis in the city’s modern history.
City officials announced Tuesday afternoon they would encourage the development of addiction engagement sites that, among providing other services, would oversee medically-supervised drug consumption.
Often known as safe-injection sites, the centers are staffed with medical professionals who can immediately respond to an overdose. They also provide critical access to addiction rehabilitation services and clean medical supplies like needles.
Dr. Thomas Farley, the city health commissioner, said the core purpose of the sites would be interfacing with drug users and offering addiction treatment services.
“These sites serve as sites to bring people into drug treatment,” he said. “We don’t see this as simply a site for supervised injection.”
Potential locations, a framework for overseeing the program and a timeline for when sites may open are not yet clear. Funding and the program’s cost are also unknown. Farley said the city is looking for private and nonprofit entities to offer proposals.
“Part of what we’re doing here today is publicizing this interest in the hopes that there are funders who will appear who care about saving lives and see this as an opportunity to do so,” he said.
Philadelphia, which saw more than 1,200 overdose deaths in 2017 fueled by the opioid crisis, could become the first U.S. city to create such a program — though other municipalities have floated similar proposals. Seattle, Washington, is in the planning stages of creating a site.