PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Friday had harsh words for those who oppose the safe injection site. Kenney warns that more people will die without a supervised safe injection site.
“If people want to shut that down, then we’re going to have more people dying, more people using drugs and more suffering for families. It’s up to the public,” Kenney said.
Plans to open the country’s first safe injection site in South Philadelphia were put on hold following community outrage.
A spokesperson with Constitution Health Plaza in South Philly says leadership made the decision to cancel plans to locate one of the two supervised Safehouse injection sites.
Kenney said thousands of people have died in the last three years from drug overdoses.
“People are dying all over the city, we had 3,500 deaths in the last three years and we’re trying to do harm reduction and keep people alive,” Kenney said. “Obviously, people react negatively to that effort and there probably should have been a little more interaction with the public as to what the plans were and we’ll see how it goes.”
Councilmembers pushed back on locating the site in South Philadelphia, with many saying they had no knowledge of what was happening.
“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.
“If City Council and other elected officials and the public want to shut down this opportunity to save lives, then they’re going to have to live with that, or die with that,” Kenney said.
Constitution Health Plaza says it was pushing to combat addiction and curb the opioid crisis in the city.
“We want you to know that we have listened. We apologize. And we want to ensure open lines of communication moving forward,” the plaza said in a statement.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed a federal lawsuit to stop Safehouse from opening and the City Council has also proposed a bill that will force any organization wishing to open a site, such as Safehouse, to have open discussion with the public months ahead of opening.
Many South Philadelphia residents are considering this a huge victory.
“It was just pure elation, folks were calling me, my phone was blowing up all night. I still haven’t answered messages and stuff like that. We’re claiming a big victory for Philadelphia,” said Anthony Giordano with Stand Up South Philly.
Safehouse has scheduled a community meeting for March 10. The location is still being determined.
Stand Up South Philly will still hold a rally in front of Constitution Health Plaza on Sunday at 3 p.m.