It appears Philadelphia is now attempting to take a page out of Seattle’s playbook. Last year, Seattle proposed opening safe-injection sites to battle the harrowing tide of heroin overdoses and deaths. That proposal came to fruition this past January, when King County announced their intention to open two centers before the end of the year; these would be the first of its kind in our country. Now, other cities alike, including Philadelphia, are considering the same.
The new centers were proposed during a meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic, which included activists, city and state officials, DEA agents, philanthropists and many others. The Director of Public Health Programs in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Priya E. Mammen remarked, “Desperate times call for innovative measures. We’re in a position now where we have to rethink everything.”
Safe-Injection Centers in Philadelphia
Rethinking everything now includes the possibility of opening facilities in which heroin users can inject their drugs “safely” and medically supervised. Advocates of the pilot program argue these measures will reduce the likelihood and occurrence of overdose death, along with the reduction in petty crime and disease. Users would be given clean needles and other injection equipment to use their drugs, while being supervised by a nurse or doctor. If and when that individual begins to suffer symptoms of a heroin overdose, the staff would administer Naloxone, the overdose reversal drug.
The centers, also known as Comprehensive User Engagement Sites (CUES) look to inevitably steer heroin addicts in the direction of recovery. Advocates of the CUES hope to connect users with social services and treatment resources, as well as provide medical attention such as wound care, for intravenous users. Many times, IV drug users suffer injection-related infections, such as abscesses, that they would otherwise neglect or ignore due to a lack of health benefits, education, or simply, embarrassment.
Those in favor also suggest, that although it would require political capital to open said centers, they would not be paid for and funded with public money, but rather through philanthropy. Paul Cherashore of Philadelphia Overdose Prevention Initative (POPI) said following the meeting, “We argue that we’re taking it out of their front yards and putting it in a contained facility, in a private building.” He is hopeful the city of Philadelphia will eventually agree to open one center.
Not A New Idea
Safe-injection sites have been operating in other countries, such as Canada, for several years now. Sarah Evans, a manager at a Vancouver center called Insite, was greatly received during the meeting in Philadelphia. She said that since 2003, 3.5 million injections have taken place at their facility, none of which were fatal overdoses. She went on to argue that the center reduced public injection, littering of paraphernalia, and did not increase petty crime. While on the surface this sounds great, still many questions arise. 3.5 million injections took place, and although no one died, how many of those people are sober today, free from ALL mood and mind altering substances? Petty crime didn’t increase, but did it decrease? After 13 years of initiation, there are still many holes in supportive evidence of the programs’ benefits.
In theory, heroin injection centers appear to be a beneficial tool in the fight against the drug crisis, but so did Methadone and Antabuse. As Suboxone becomes the be-all-end-all to heroin addiction treatment, it makes sense why some would steer toward this direction. Nevertheless, we cannot be afraid to ask the difficult questions, or the questions that may not even seem important. After all, these are our neighborhoods, our friends, our loved ones that may potentially have the chance of using drugs, free and clear of consequence and repercussion, furthering the progression of their disease.
When Will Enough, Be Enough?
We wonder how long after safe-injection sites open in our country, in our state, that someone proposes prescription-grade heroin for the severe user or chronic relapser. After all, Canada has done it and it’s a means to keep the addict alive. Or, take this scenario under consideration. Heroin addicts still need to find ways and means to pay for the drugs, so they will steal, rob, and sometimes prostitute themselves. Often times, they will do things they never thought they would have before. So what happens after the crime rate doesn’t decrease or advocates aren’t pleased with those numbers? Would they suggest supplying the drugs along with the equipment to use it? After all, that’s what Amsterdam has done.
And let’s not forget all the other unanswered questions these programs bring up. What happens to the heroin user after they leave the center? Are they left to wander the streets intoxicated, or worse, get behind the wheel of a car? Just because we open a secure and private facility for the use of drugs, does not mean we have eliminated the likelihood of dangerous situations occurring.
What it really boils down to is this…When will enough, be enough? We have to stop wasting valuable time, money, and resources on the notion of treating drug addiction with more drugs. In what reality has that ever worked? Yes, maybe the center would be paid for through philanthropy, but why not use those funds to create more treatment beds and resources throughout the state of Pennsylvania, which is one major difficulty in the Commonwealth today. We realize heroin addiction and the treatment of it is not a black and white matter. It’s a multi-faceted disease and sometimes needs to be addressed differently for each individual. Nevertheless, there are many other ways in which we can address the heroin epidemic than to simply live by the motto, “If we can’t beat em, join em.”
Contact Clearbrook For Heroin Addiction Treatment
As the heroin epidemic continues to plague the state of Pennsylvania, we understand new measures must be taken. Nevertheless, safe-injection centers do nothing to treat the disease of addiction, and do everything to continuously enable it. Here at Clearbrook, we have found a solution from a seemingly hopeless state of mind, body, and soul. Through the utilization of necessary detox protocols, addictions counseling, and an integration of the 12 steps of AA and NA, we have had the privilege of watching countless individuals recover from alcoholism and drug addiction. If you or a loved is currently struggling with chemical dependency, please allow us to help you. Contact our Admissions Specialists today for further information.