Harm Reduction

Candidates Oppose Safe Injection Sites to Get an Edge Over the Other

A GOP candidate claims she's the only person in the race who opposes a life-saving opioid policy, but her Democratic opponent is against it as well.



Two candidates fighting for a seat in the Pennsylvania legislature are rushing to oppose a lifesaving solution to the opioid crisis. Needless to say, that's not how they're describing their policy platforms.

In the race to represent the 177th District, which includes Philadelphia, both Democrat Joe Hohenstein and Republican Patty-Pat Kozlowski want voters to know that they're strongly opposed to supervised injection facilities (SIFs), also called safe injection sites.

Kozlowski's campaign has passed out literature identifying herself as the "the only candidate against safe injection sites." Another handout accuses Hohenstein of failing to fight "injection sites that allow illegal drug use." This prompted Hohenstein to let voters know that he doesn't like injection sites either. As his issues page explains, "Joe does not support establishing safe injection sites, but rather believes we need to put energy into common sense actions with proven track records of making the entire community safer."

Earlier this year, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kennedy announced plans to implement supervised injection facilities (SIFs), also called safe injection sites, around the city. An estimated 1,200 Philly residents died from overdose deaths in 2017—four times the city's number of homicides. Kennedy and other officials argue that SIFs could help reduce risk of fatal overdoses and other harms. Even figures who previously had reservations, such as Police Commissioner Richard Ross, have become more accepting of the SIF approach.

SIFs have already been implemented in 66 cities worldwide. As Reason's Jacob Sullum has noted, they have a good track record—they lead to fewer fatal overdoses, limit the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, and encourage enrollment in drug treatment programs—but are nonetheless the latest harm-reduction strategy to be opposed by drug warriors, like needle exchanges and naloxone before them.