Nonprofit continues to fight for safe injection site

The battle rages on for non-profit Safehouse, who are seeking to open up the country’s first safe injection site with onsite overdose treatment. 

It was reported that Safehouse filed a motion on Monday, asking the U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh to issue a declaratory judgment, which wouldn’t prohibit the overdose prevention model as a matter of law. 

In October of this year, after a ruling by U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh, it was determined that Safehouse wouldn’t violate federal law in opening the nation’s first safe injection site. A current issue undergoing debate is that this ruling was too narrow, whyy.org reports. 

McHugh determined, after an evidentiary hearing and oral argument, that the injection site would not violate the U.S. Controlled Substances Act written in the 1980s and known as the “crackhouse statute.” It was decided that it did not violate this because the overriding goal of the site is to reduce drug use. 

“The ultimate goal of Safehouse’s proposed operation is to reduce drug use, not facilitate it, and accordingly, [the statute] does not prohibit Safehouse’s proposed conduct,” McHugh wrote, according to whyy.org. 

Ronda Goldfein, who is on the Safehouse board and legal team told whyy.org that, “The essence of the motion is we don’t need to have a trial, we don’t need any more evidentiary findings.”

Goldfein added, “We’ve agreed to all the relevant facts, and we can rely on those facts to reach a decision.”

According to Goldfein, the plan is to open up the center as soon as possible and that Safehouse was in the “process of readying multiple locations.” 

U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain, who has been leading the opposition to the opening of safe injection sites, remains insistent on appealing any favorable ruling made regarding Safehouse at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 

McSwain shared a statement Tuesday with whyy.org, which read, “This is a necessary first step to getting the case elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which will hear the government’s appeal. We are looking forward to that opportunity.”

It was reported that the U.S. Attorney’s office will have to submit its response by Jan. 17. 

Additionally, on Monday, McSwain penned a letter to Safehouse’s lead attorney, Ilana Eisenstein. In the letter, McSwain’s legal team pledge to crack down on the non-profit’s clients, should they open any supervised injection sites before the legal appeal process has ended.  

According to whyy.org, part of the letter read, “If Safehouse attempts to open an injection site in this District during the pendency of an appeal, federal law enforcement would consider all available enforcement tools at our disposal to enforce federal law in and around the site, as appropriate.”

It was reported that Goldfein’s response to McSwain’s demand to wait to open up until the appeals process is completed doesn’t make sense from both a procedural and legal standpoint. 

In the filing, Eisenstein wrote, “Each day, in the City of Philadelphia, more lives are lost to the opioid epidemic.”

In 2018 alone, 1,116 people died of accidental overdose deaths in Philly, with the city’s opioid epidemic widely regarded as one of the worst in the nation, Inquirer.com reports.

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