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A Controversial Fix for Overdose Deaths: Safe Injection Sites

San Francisco opened a mock safe injection site last week, in an effort to showcase the public health benefits of the idea. But the Justice Department has vowed to crack down on any attempt to open a real one in the U.S.
San Francisco opened a pop-up safe injection site.
San Francisco opened a pop-up safe injection site.Alain McLaughlin/Safer Inside

San Francisco is one step closer to becoming the first U.S. city to open a safe injection site—a space where heroin addicts can use drugs, without fear of arrest. That is, if Philadelphia doesn’t beat them to it.

Both cities have made moves to allow safe injection sites to be opened in recent months. But it could be years before this translates into a working facility—if ever. A California measure, which was passed by the Senate in August, is still awaiting California Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. And after Philadelphia moved forward with their site plans, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has vowed to take “swift and aggressive” federal action against any city that makes moves toward opening one.