PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Constitution Health Plaza officials have canceled plans to open a safe injection site in South Philadelphia. Constitution Health Plaza officials announced the decision Thursday night.
“We believe in the good intentions of all involved – on both sides of this issue – and want to thank you for your honest communications with us over the past few days,” the facility said in a statement. “We want you to know that we have listened. We apologize. And we want to ensure open lines of communication moving forward.”
The safe injection site was expected to open as early as Monday at the Constitutional Health Plaza. There is no word on a potential new site for Safehouse’s safe injection site.
Constitutional Health Plaza wanted to play a role in curbing the opioid crisis in the city and originally agreed to house the safe injection site.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney addressed the cancellation in a statement Thursday night.
“After Safehouse voluntarily delayed its opening so it could focus on meeting with the community, the building owner alerted the City that he was no longer interested in moving forward with the lease,” Kenney said in a statement.
“In light of this development and the strong concerns voiced over the past two days, it’s clear that no site will open imminently. I am glad that this will allow Safehouse more time to examine its options, and to engage the community. It will allow those with concerns more time to get answers. And it will allow everyone to take a deep breath and focus on the ultimate goal of this effort: to save the lives of fellow Philadelphians who are struggling with addiction. I remain convinced that overdose prevention sites do save lives — as they have in more than 100 cities around the world. I remain committed to moving forward in a deliberate, thoughtful, and collaborative way to open a site that will save lives.”
The cancellation comes after much opposition by the South Philadelphia community and lawmakers.
“Anything other than the site totally leaving South Philadelphia, at the end of the day, that would be satisfying to me,” Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said. “Even if they get input from the community, it still doesn’t matter. We don’t want the site in South Philadelphia.”
Councilman Mark Squilla says he’s happy Philadelphia residents will now have a voice in the safe injection site conversation.
“We are now going to start a process. Safehouse is still committed to doing a meeting on March 10, so hopefully they’ll be able to give us that information of how these sites will run and what process would play,” Squilla said.
Before the announcement, U.S. Attorney William McSwain filed an appeal to request a stay of the district court’s approval to open, pending their federal court appeal to the Third Circuit.
Residents voiced their concerns to Safehouse on Wednesday during a contentious press conference, saying they were blindsided by the South Philly location.
On Thursday, Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh proposed a bill that would deem any supervised site as a “nuisance health establishment” unless they meet public input requirements, including 90% approval of residents living within a one-mile radius of the facility.
A mandate like this would prevent another facility, such as Safehouse, to pop-up without prior notice.
“This was done very secretly,” Oh said. “I believe it was done intentionally so that the public could not have input.”
City Council President Darrell Clarke, who is against the injection site, says they have sat down with legal counsel. He agrees addiction is a disease, but it should be provided through a medical facility.
“I don’t understand how you’re going to help someone stop using drugs by enabling them to use them in a safe way or manner. We need to put more resources on the table,” Clarke said.
Philadelphia officials will continue to work to determine what’s the best way to address the opioid epidemic in the city.
Safehouse has not yet responded to CBS3’s requests for comment.
CBS3’s Kimberly Davis contributed to this story.