Philadelphia’s Fight Against Opioids In Kensington

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Months after police swept “heroin camps”, where homeless men and women shoot heroin, off Kensington Ave., the camps moved to the blocks off The Avenue. The city cleared out the largest encampments, however, the people have simply moved; many now reside under the Emerald Street Bridge, in abandoned houses or along the railroad tracks.

When Philly.com columnist Mike Newall spoke to councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, who represents a portion of Kensington, she spoke of the need to update Philadelphia’s drug treatment system, formally known as The Office of Addiction Services (OAS). In documentaries and news reports worldwide, Kensington is know as the largest heroin marketplace on the East Coast. A minister, whose church is six blocks off of Kensington Ave., told Newall that heroin addicts have moved to his churches’ playground after being rousted off The Avenue.

At the McPherson Square Library in Kensington, the librarian has saved six people from overdosing so far this year by administering Narcan, a drug that reverses overdoses. Heroin addicts are overdosing on the library’s lawn after McPherson, which had to close for several days after needles clogged the library’s sewer system, instituted a policy of requiring patrons to show ID before they could use the restrooms. In 2016, 900 people died of drug overdoses in Philadelphia; half had used the opiate fentanyl. Philadelphia’s emergency personal administer Narcan as well, primarily in Kensington.

Philadelphia is sending a delegation to Canada to visit safe injection sites to determine if the sites may work for the city. The sites are usually tents where people can come in and use opioids, knowing that help is close by if they overdose. Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez stated that she was against the idea, preferring the idea of a 24-hour staging site, where the police could bring the heroin camp residents to speak with outreach workers.