Eric Risberg / AP
Top officials from 13 states enter Philadelphia and urge a federal court to open a site where people can inject illegal opioids under medical supervision, the latest escalation in a legal battle with the Justice Department, which can decide whether Facilities known as supervised injection sites can begin to operate in America.
In Philadelphia, where opioid overdoses kill three times as many as homicides, a nonprofit, Safehouse, has been working to launch an injection site as a way to combat the city's opioid crisis.
But the Justice Department has faced a legal challenge to block it before it opens, claiming that such a site violates federal drug laws and allows drug use.
In a friend-of-court card sent Wednesday by leaders from five cities – Ithaca, New York City, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Seattle – injection sites widely used in parts of Canada and Europe say Some of the ways cities respond to the opioid crisis.
"The opioid crisis has taken a big deal on US cities and counties, including ours," wrote the city's leaders. "Despite our efforts, the existing methods of combating the opioid crisis have proved to be too little, or at least too late, too many of our residents."
In a separate brief, lawyers from Washington, D.C. and seven states, including Michigan, New Mexico and Oregon, also have the right to allow the injection site to open. "As experimental laboratories and the primary public health regulators, states should be free to adopt pioneering medical interventions," wrote the senior state service enforcement agencies. The other top law enforcement officials who signed the card are from Delaware, Minnesota, Virginia and Colorado.
The opioid crisis has also resulted in an alarming rate of death in the cities that are exploring injection sites as one Philadelphia pursues.
In New York City, more than 1,000 people die each year from overdoses. "This means that more New Yorkers die from opioid overdoses than from murder, suicide and vehicle crashes combined," city leaders short notes.
But legal uncertainty and other problems have slowed down efforts to open supervised injection sites. But the city's leaders say they believe that no other option is capable of inflicting significant damage to mortal overdoses.
"These trends have continued in spite of widespread efforts by local authorities and health departments to curb the crisis, including policies for extending medication therapy, clean needle exchange, and naloxone distribution to first responders and public health personnel" by city officials.
Ministry of Justice officials have stated that the idea of a supervised injection site violates so-called "crack house laws" which make it a crime to own a property where drugs are used, but Safehouse planners and an alliance of local leaders are against these statutes From the 1980s, they were never meant to apply to what they regard as a medical facility in the midst of a public health crisis.
The city leaders write that the sites "would be places where drug users can get medical monitoring and treatment. The act of allowing drug users to [inject drugs] in a supervised environment where they can be rescued, if necessary, rather than on the street or in a toilet room. "
An argument by other briefs was also filed with the Philadelphia Federal Court on Wednesday both in support of and against the proposed site. Among those written by a group of 64 current and former law enforcement officials, including former officials of the Justice Department, claimed that federal prosecutors "distorted federal drug laws" in trying to close the country's first attempt to open a supervised injection site.
However, a group of six neighborhood associations around the Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington, the heart of the city's opioid crisis and the favorite spot at the injection site, wrote a brief post to court for not allowing the site in their community and fearing such a facility would invite further crime and drug trafficking.
"Legislative citizens who go to and from work and young children traveling to school face the risk of being caught in the violence and become targets for dealers wishing to increase their customer base," wrote the Quarterly Group, which filed cards with the city's brotherhood order.
"The police, who are experts in this field, know what the Congress knew. They know from bitter experiences that concentrate drug use in a place that the Safehouse proposes will bring more abusers, more dealers, and more violent crime to neighborhoods. already suffering, "the card says.
Nevertheless, the letter from the State Attorney General claims that studies have shown that injection sites have been shown to save lives in other countries and that it is time for the United States to give the controversial measure a chance.
"Cities that are metropolitan areas should be free to experiment with this potentially life-saving intervention as well as others without fear that public health organizations or doctors in their jurisdictions will be subject to prosecution," the group wrote.
The case is pending in Philadelphia before the US district judge Gerald A. McHugh, who will manage some time after a July 22 deadline.