The city with the highest opioid death rate of any large city in the United States could soon become the location of the nation's first supervised drug injection site.
The vice president of Safehouse, a nonprofit that wants to open the first such site, said Thursday the group is in negotiations to sign a lease in Kensington, a neighborhood known as the center of the city's opioid crisis. She said the lease was for a "nominal fee," Philly.com reported.
Ronda Goldfein said Safehouse had considered more than two dozen locations around Philadelphia but found a property on Hilton Street. Goldfein said the goal is to open more sites throughout the city where people can use heroin, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs under medical supervision, with staffers able to intervene in case of an overdose.
The announcement comes a month after Philadelphia's top federal prosecutor filed a suit to stop Safehouse from opening a site. The lawsuit pits U.S. Attorney William McSwain's stance on safe injection sites against those of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who sits on Safehouse's board. McSwain believes supporters should try to change the laws, not break them.
Krasner said McSwain is relying on the failed drug policies of the past.
Philadelphia has the highest opioid death rate of any large U.S. city, with more than 1,000 deaths per year. Kenney and others have come to support Safehouse's plans. Goldfein said neighbors have been notified of the pending lease.
Rendell said Thursday that the owner of the Kensington property wished to remain anonymous. He spoke at a conference in Washington on addition and harm-reduction research. Radio station WHYY was first to report the latest developments.