Nonprofit remains committed to opening safe injection site despite civil suit

Pat Loeb
February 06, 2019 - 3:10 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Plans for a safe injection site in Philadelphia will continue to move forward while U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain's civil suit is in the courts. 

Both the city and the nonprofit Safehouse, which will operate it, remain committed to opening the site.

READ: US attorney sues to stop nonprofit from opening safe-injection site in Philly

Safehouse will continue its search for a building and funding, according to board Vice President Ronda Goldfein. She actually welcomes the civil suit as the appropriate way to decide who is right on the so-called "crack house law," which prohibits sites for illegal drug use.

"We have consistently maintained that our initiative to save lives is not what was intended by the federal law," she explained. 

Goldfein admitted she's grateful McSwain has not taken a heavy-handed approach.

"It doesn't feel like an adversarial conflict. It feels like a genuine dispute that needs somebody else to weigh in on," she said.

Goldfein, executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, was among those who stepped up when the city requested an outside partner to open a comprehensive user engagement site, or CUES, which allow the use of illegal drugs inside their doors. 

RELATED: A defense of safe injection sites from bioethics expert

Safehouse would also provide clean needles to prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases, as well as test for fentanyl, the deadliest part of street drugs. 

Board member and former Gov. Ed Rendell said it would not provide drugs.

"Volunteer medical personnel would stand by in case someone who takes drugs overdoses," he noted.

Rendell predicts many will come into treatment because of counseling that will be provided.

The need is clear, according to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who noted 1,200 people died last year from overdoses.

"It is inexcusable to play politics with their lives, and I think that's exactly what's happening here," he said.