Philadelphia pursues safe injection sites despite justice official's warning that they're illegal

Pat Loeb
August 28, 2018 - 6:08 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia officials say they'll proceed with plans to open safe injection sites for drug users, despite a warning from U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Rosenstein mounted an argument against safe injection sites in his New York Times op-ed Tuesday, warning that the Justice Department would take "swift and aggressive action" against a city that opened a site. He also noted it would be a federal felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and hefty fines.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Tom Farley is not worried.

"We continue to focus on the ways that we can save lives in this crisis, and overdose prevention sites is part of our strategy," he said, "so we're going to continue to go forward on this."

Farley said he disagrees with Rosenstein's arguments that the sites are unsafe, ineffective and harmful to surrounding neighborhoods.

"There's no question these facilities save lives, that they don't promote drug use. In fact, they get people into drug treatment, and they reduce neighborhood disorder from drug use. There's lots of evidence to this and it's evidence he didn't take into account in his piece," he added.

Farley added the same federal law prohibits needle exchanges, another life-saving measure with a long track record.

"Probably the most successful thing we've done in the history of the AIDS epidemic," Farley said.

The centers are a long way off. The city is continuing to look for an operator and funding. 

Still, he's not discouraged from Rosenstein's op-ed.

"If it were your daughter, who you've tried to get into drug treatment but she was continuing to inject despite that, you would want to make sure she injected safely so that she doesn't die," said Farley, "and every drug user is someone's child."