Senators aim to prohibit safe injection site without public input

PHOTO: James Robinson

It’s been nearly one week since Safehouse announced they were planning to open the country’s first safe-injection site in South Philadelphia.

The news was not well received.

Residents throughout the city— especially in South Philly— voiced their concerns and anger that community members were not allowed to give input on such a major decision. U.S. Attorney William McSwain said he plans to file an appeal to stop the opening of the site. And this morning, State Sens. Anthony Williams and Tina Tartaglione held a press conference to introduce Senate Bill 933, which would forbid safe injection sites unless authorized by the local government.

“I am deeply troubled by the unnecessary confusion, fear, and anxiety caused by Safehouse’s lack of transparency surrounding its location for a supervised injection site,” Williams said in a statement. “An entire community in South Philadelphia was blindsided when the news broke that a site had been chosen.”

“I have proposed legislation along with Senator Tartaglione that would bring needed transparency to the conversation surrounding supervised injection sites in Pennsylvania. It empowers local communities and local governments to provide input and ensures safety and security for all. I urge the Senate to vote on SB 933,” he added.

The new bill has three major requirements: at least three public hearings must be held within the municipality prior to any final decisions regarding the location of the safe injection site; trained medical professionals must be on-site to observe people at the clinic who are using a controlled substance; and the facility must provide a community safety plan developed alongside local law enforcement, state police or both.

“We cannot overcome the opioid crisis or advance community health by pursuing policies and programs that largely ignore the community,” said Tartaglione. “The legislation proposed by Senator Williams and me – Senate Bill 933 – would guarantee community input by mandating public hearings and by requiring operators to develop proactive and comprehensive community safety plans. Our bill would force organizations to take neighbors into consideration before establishing safe-injection sites.”

PHOTO: James Robinson

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