PHILADELPHIA — February 27, 2020 — The opioid and overdose crisis affects all communities—across race, age, income, gender and geography. Our loved ones are dying and our communities are seeing increasing levels of addiction and homelessness. Deaths of our community members from overdoses are preventable. How many more must die before we take action?
I support overdose prevention sites, I support the opening of Safehouse in South Philadelphia, and I support harm reduction advocates in their work to recognize the humanity of people who use drugs. As a candidate for Pennsylvania State Senate in the First Senatorial District, I categorically oppose any legislative or rhetorical attempts to pre-empt or prevent the opening of Safehouse; I am also against any state preemption of Philadelphia’s or any other city’s ability to open such sites. Overdose prevention sites, which are medical facilities, are scientifically proven to reduce deaths, and to give people struggling with dependency the means to seek treatment. One life saved, one more day is an opportunity to heal harm done to our community.
Every single day, Philadelphia loses three residents to a preventable overdose death. Meanwhile, in the three decades that overdose prevention sites have been open and operating around the world—to date, over a hundred—not a single person has died in one of them. These sites across the world have saved lives and provided people who use drugs with an opportunity to access treatment, housing, and other supportive services.
Pennsylvania is behind many states in implementation of harm reduction strategies. Syringes are still criminalized in Pennsylvania, preventing our state from opening live-saving health centers and syringe exchange programs that can decrease HIV infection rates, improve health outcomes, and expedite access to treatment.
We must take steps to heal the harm the racist war on drugs has wrought on Black communities. We must release those with drug convictions on their records from imprisonment, expunge those records and provide immediate assistance to help people on re-entry establish stable lives outside of prison. We must recognize that the war on drugs has destroyed millions of lives, wasted billions of dollars, and is based primarily in fear and stigma, rather than proven evidence and research. It has disproportionately singled out poor communities of color and caused irreparable damage to lives, incomes, neighborhoods, families, and futures.
The fraying of the social safety net has also had its costs. 84 percent of Pennsylvanians who seek drug treatment are not currently able to access it. Cuts and threats to Medicaid and SNAP threaten to remove care from low-income populations and block access to treatment and medical services. Even for those with social capital, accessing social services such as housing and treatment remains incredibly difficult. This is immoral and inhumane. We must guarantee a home for all, and make treatment available to everyone.
We must recognize the humanity of all of our neighbors and treat our community and it’s members with dignity. We must absolutely support overdose prevention sites. We need them in South Philadelphia, and across the city and state. We must also be clear that they are one piece of ending the racist war on drugs and healing our communities. Overdose prevention sites are a necessary step in this direction. It is for these reasons that I reiterate my support for Safehouse and its future in South Philadelphia.