As a federal lawsuit over a proposed supervised injection site in Philadelphia moves forward, Mayor Jim Kenney and several city officials are touring similar facilities in Canada, where such programs are well-established.
The delegation stopped in Toronto, where supervised injection sites first opened in 2017, on Tuesday. Officials will continue to Vancouver, home to North America’s first supervised injection site, which opened in 2003, before returning to Philadelphia later this week.
Alicia Taylor, Kenney’s deputy communications director, said in a statement that the mayor would meet with law enforcement and public health officials in both cities to “learn more about [supervised injection site] operations and their impact on public safety and neighboring communities.”
Supervised injection sites are places where people in addiction can use drugs under medical supervision, be revived if they overdose, and access treatment. Drugs may not be bought or sold there. In 2018, in the wake of a record-breaking number of overdose deaths the year before, Kenney’s administration announced it would sanction, but not fund, a site in Philadelphia.
Since then, a nonprofit, Safehouse, has formed to open a site; the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a federal lawsuit to block its opening earlier this year.
While advocates have argued that a site is necessary to stem the tide of overdose deaths in Philadelphia, some neighborhood groups in the Kensington area — the heart of the city’s opioid crisis and the most likely location — have opposed the site, raising concerns that it would only further entrench drug dealing in the area. City officials have said a site should not open before city officials develop a public safety plan for the area around it.