Updated at 7:30 p.m. Thursday: Constitution Health Plaza has canceled plans to open the safe injection site at the South Philadelphia location.
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some in South Philadelphia are fired up and ready to fight the opening of the nation’s first supervised injection site. Safehouse will open inside the Constitution Health Plaza sometime next week.
Toronto opened its first safe injection site in 2017. The city now has four.
Mind you, Toronto has 1.2 million more people than Philadelphia. Still, the number of opioid deaths they see per year hovers around 300.
Philadelphia’s opioid death toll is more than three times that.
The co-founders of what is scheduled to be the nation’s first safe injection site were put on the swift defensive Wednesday during a press conference.
“You snuck it you, you blindsided us,” one concerned resident said.
Many South Philadelphia residents are fuming, fearful and concerned that a supervised injection facility will encourage drug users and drug dealers to come into their neighborhood and that crime and blight will follow.
Two years ago, Toronto’s first supervised injection site opened across the street from Sammy Newman’s family pub. He says he hasn’t noticed a change for the worse.
“It’s a fairly friendly, fairly positive neighborhood. If anything, we see a little bit more say, evidence of use, but that can only mean that people are better accessing safe stuff,” Newman said.
“It’s just hard to see because you are inside the bubble so all you see are people slowly killing themselves,” said Toronto business owner Stone Harriman.
Harriman said it’s hard to gauge the success of Canada’s 25 supervised injection sites.
He says he has seen more people struggling with addiction come into the neighborhood.
“I’ve got to admit that’s the only thing that really bothers me because I’m relatively close to it,” Harriman said. “So it’s kind of a not in my backyard kind of thing. You’ve got to put the garbage dump somewhere, the power plant somewhere in a way this has become a civic chore.”
The true success of Toronto’s program is hard to quantify. The number of opioid-related overdose deaths slightly increased from 2018 to 2019.
But it’s unclear if that is just because the number of people suffering from addiction has grown.