Anthony Williams

State Sen. Anthony Williams expressed his opposition to a supervised injection site in Kensington at a community forum in April. — PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE PHOTO/KAYLA E. BROWN

A Democratic state senator from Philadelphia plans to introduce a bill that would prevent a supervised injection site from operating in his home city, delivering a potential setback to a project that has the support of Mayor Jim Kenney and the backing of a federal judge.

Sen. Anthony Williams circulated a memo to his colleagues Thursday seeking support for a statewide ban on “supervised injection sites,” where people can use illicit drugs under medical supervision, obtain clean needles, and receive information about treatment options.

The bill would prevent the Philadelphia nonprofit Safehouse from opening the nation’s first supervised injection site. Already, there has been strong opposition to a proposal to locate the site in Kensington — a neighborhood considered ground zero in the opioid crisis — WHYY reports.

Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney William McSwain sought to prevent the site from opening, calling it “in-your-face illegal activity,” the station reported.

In response, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the project does not violate federal drug laws.

McSwain said in a statement that the “case is obviously far from over.” But the judge’s ruling apparently galvanized Williams.

“Given [Wednesday’s] federal court ruling upholding nonprofit organization Safehouse’s plan to open a supervised injection site in the city of Philadelphia, it is paramount that this legislation moves quickly,” Williams wrote in the memo.

“Let us not forget that heroin remains an illegal drug and a deadly killer of Pennsylvanians across the commonwealth,” Williams continued. “In the midst of an epidemic, we should not be providing spaces for users to continue to use without requiring treatment.”

The goals of supervised injection sites are to reduce the spread of needle-borne diseases and viruses and to help people reduce drug use. Williams has expressed skepticism over those claims and was a vocal critic of the proposed injection site when he unsuccessfully challenged Kenney in the city’s mayoral primary race this year.

It’s not uncommon for Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled General Assembly to pass legislation preempting the will of locally elected officials in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the state’s largest — and most heavily Democratic — cities.

When the Legislature considered killing Philadelphia’s soda tax last year, Williams told the online news outlet Billy Penn that he’s “not a fan of preemption.”

But that’s exactly what his bill would do if it becomes law.

“Clearly, we must continue our efforts to rid Pennsylvania of the scourge of heroin, fentanyl, and other deadly drugs, but state-sanctioned drug use is not the way,” Williams said in the memo released Thursday. “Instead of dedicating resources to aid in the continued use of drugs, the General Assembly should seek to provide additional funding to treatment and use-prevention, to mental health and trauma-informed education, and to reducing the amount of opioids on our streets.”

Spokespeople for Kenney and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who also supports the proposed injection site, could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.

Elizabeth Hardison is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story originally appeared.

(2) comments


Senator Williams is on point. The city’s explanation given for why we need the proposed supervised drug sites is not a valid argument for stopping the spread of blood borne diseases, since Philadelphia already has a clean syringe exchange program. Let’s not cover the real thoughts behind those who champion the supervised drug sites, and that is to reduce overdose deaths of those addicted to opioids. To argue otherwise simply is disingenuous to the concept of helping those humans suffering with opioids addiction, and their families.

This city has a long history of neglect to those persons suffering with addiction and in need of quality treatment. Sorry but it’s just not there. Since the merger of Drug treatment with the city’s mental health office it is now a step child of the two. Drug treatment should be a stand alone department that reports to the Mayor. Instead it now reports to a person’s whose expertise is divided amongst Mental health and Intellectual DisAbilities. In addition, the office is corrupt with profit making agencies and does not even have a office within its physical local to coordinate preventive services. A sham! (Read Pimping Out-Philadelphia Daily News).

The Mayor and his advocates including Former Governor Randell would do those they are attempting to help by assessing the current corrupt, racist system before the drastic measures of a supervised drug site.

Cecil Hankins

Logan, Community Activist


Governor Rendell

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