Health

To Combat the Opioid Epidemic, Cities Ponder Facilities for Drug Use


Quetcy M. Lozada, a first-term Philadelphia City Council member, stood on a September evening near an elementary school just off Kensington Avenue, the epicenter of a sprawling fentanyl market in a city that saw a record 1,413 drug overdose deaths last year.

Just a block away, the street and sidewalks were dotted with used syringes and their discarded orange caps.

“Kids have to go through this every day,” Ms. Lozada said, her voice rising. Children “are so impacted that they don’t want to come to school.”

Public health experts have long endorsed a controversial strategy to blunt the opioid epidemic that has been sweeping cities like Philadelphia: supervised drug consumption sites, in which people are allowed to take illicit drugs under professional supervision.

The state’s human services department is putting together potential plans to open the facilities, Jeremy Drucker, Minnesota’s director of addiction and recovery, said.

Mr. Kenney, the Philadelphia mayor, watched the vote from his office below the Council chambers in City Hall. “I was a little depressed,” he said in an interview after the meeting concluded.

“It’s not just the people on Kensington Avenue. It’s people in every neighborhood, their sons and daughters in the basement or in the bathroom. If they’re by themselves, how do you get them better?”

Mr. Kenney said that a site in Kensington would draw people from the street who have nowhere else to go, reducing drug-related litter and offering services far beyond the supervision of drug use.

He criticized City Council members for deferring to constituents who balked at the idea.

“If we put that standard on every public issue, our schools would still be segregated because people in the community, back in the day when we were desegregating schools, said no, and a court had to tell them to do it,” he said.

“We walk around all day looking at folks who are in the street, who need services, who are overdosing, who are losing their kids,” Moses Santana, a supporter of supervised consumption sites, told Council members at City Hall.

“We have to look at these folks as if we’re looking at ourselves.”



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