Candidate for District Attorney Larry Krasner has indicated on multiple occasions that he is in full support of safe injection sites to combat the heroin overdose fatalities that are plaguing the city. So far only one individual on City Council has come out in favor of the idea–Helen Gym.
Three City Council districts cover where the vast majority of heroin addicts are overdosing in Philly.
- Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez – came down firmly against safe injection sites in an interview with the Inquirer
- Councilman Mark Squilla – has stayed quiet on the issue
- Darrell Clarke – same
There’s a reason why City Council is so tepid–the resistance to safe injection facilities is super-high. One activist who has been working with heroin addicts in Kensington confided with me last week that she’s all but given up mentioning the clinics, where opioid abusers come to self-medicate and sit in observation to prevent themselves from overdosing.
“The public thinks that it’s legalizing recreational heroin, which it’s not” she lamented.
Indeed, most of the responses that safe injection sites have gotten with the city’s residents, and from comments on Philadelinquency ranges from “it’s a choice!!!” to “let them die“. Another fun one: “it’s a white people problem. They fucked themselves up so fuck ’em.”
Black And On Heroin
My all-time fav is the complaint that because of the city’s response to the crack-cocaine epidemic–which mainly took place under Mayor Wilson Goode, mind you–today’s heroin epidemic shouldn’t even be looked-at until previous grievances about the 1980s War On Drugs have been addressed; as if that’s ever going to happen to the level of satisfaction of anyone bitching about how crack-cocaine was dealt with. What do you want… a pony?
The sad truth is that opioid abuse is mainly affecting low-income white people now, but like HIV/AIDS it is spreading into minority populations. In Cincinnati, the opioid epidemic has leaped across racial lines and has started spreading among low-income minority populations at nearly the same rate as it’s affected whites in the suburbs.
New York City is now noticing increasing levels of heroin abuse in the Bronx among black and Latino populations.
Realistically safe injection sites, which are the only proposal so far to combat the high fatality rate that is climbing in both rural and urban populations, has many hurdles to appearing in Kensington.
The largest question to answer is “how do these work, legally?” A safe injection clinic is ultimately a state-designated medical facility, where self-medication of opioids is legally permitted. While heroin itself can still remain a narcotic and illegal to have, once you’re inside the facility, you’re fine. In order to make that happen, Pennsylvania’s criminal statutes would have to be amended, which requires a large amount of support in Harrisburg to make happen. And without Western Pennsylvanians on board with the idea along with a number of rural counties, Philadelphia can’t make them legal on its own. The City does not have the power in its Home Rule Charter to exempt itself from the state’s medical regulations and go about self-legalizing them.
But, these people made a choice!
Well, that’s depends on whether you’re willing to ask an addict how they first got on painkillers in the first place. Usually the path to heroin abuse begins with a suburban-style doctor or pain management clinic who proscribes take-home opioids to treat pain. Because there’s not a requirement to do much follow-up care to ensure an addiction hasn’t taken hold, the patient might develop a dependency on the pills. Once the refills run out, if an alternate is available–say another relatives pill supply–congratulations! You now have an opioid dependency.
For the under-18s, some kids are finding themselves heading straight to heroin within a couple months rather than the older adult who might have bounced around on pills for 5-12 months before their painkiller dependency led them to heroin. The easiest access to painkillers is easily found in the medicine cabinets of older relatives.
Before oxycontin got reformulated to make the filler and binding agent impossible for a pill popper to separate from the active drug, we called oxycontin addicts “Oxyzombies”.
Zombies is still a pretty apt term you hear in Kensington a lot to describe all the foreign suburbanites roaming around with blank stares in their eyes, or hanging outside the Wawa hoping to accrue some money towards the next set of bags they need to buy before withdrawal kicks in.
Get them rehab!!!
You know the failure rate of opioid rehab clinics is over 80%, right? Without patient willpower, there is no therapy that’s on offer in Pennsylvania that “cures” an opioid addict much less can keep them clean for a long amount of time.
We spend a ton of money on recovery services already–and we’re approaching 2,000 opioid deaths in the city alone. The clinics aren’t even making a dent in it.
Sure, there is jail–but sorry; the City is under a binding agreement with the Federal courts to keep the prison population low, and the City is not about to fill it back up with heroin addicts. If you break into a house looking for shit to steal and convert to cash for your drugs—that gets you some jail. But if you’re just standing around on the street corner high? Nope.
Well it should be inpatient rehab!!!
So you want to fill up ALL of the region’s hospitals with 70,000 addicts in recovery. Where a 3 day stay for an appendix that’s gone septic will set you back over $40,000 in hospital bills–so imagine what 4-6 weeks of inpatient recovery costs.
Are you ready to pay $10,000/yr in property taxes on your 2 story rowhome? Well… are you? What magic money fairy do you think is going to pay for all that?
Let them die!!!
It’s kinda macabre but I laugh when I hear this. At least the ones who reach for this response freely admit that recovery isn’t helping, jail isn’t the answer and heroin abuse is continuing to go up. But they’re still adamant that they don’t want safe injection clinics and would rather just see dead bodies dumped in a barge.
If enough of them die, perhaps the Mexican cartels will kill off enough customers that the problem will solve itself.
That math doesn’t really work out, though. There’s approximately 70,000 opioid addicts living in the city and they’re being replaced by transplants landing in Kensington at a fairly high rate. Even though approximately 1,450 have died already this year from opioid abuse, the replacement rate of new addicts is higher than the ones being killed off or stopping. Maybe if the death rate approached 10,000 people a year in the city the “death math” might work itself out, but not at 2,000/yr.
Let’s face it
You don’t have a fucking clue what to do with heroin addicts except watch them die.