Funding Safehouse: A Harm Reduction Practice with Evidence
In July FCAA launched a blog series to highlight challenges and successes grant makers and recipients are having in funding and implementing harm reduction programs. Shortly after the conclusion of this 6-part series, a U.S. District Judge ruled that the Philadelphia nonprofit organization Safehouse would be allowed to open the first site in the U.S. to offer supervised safe consumption services, as part of its public health approach to overdose prevention.
We invited two funders who are active supporters of Safehouse’s efforts to tell us why these services are so critical.
Philadelphia is suffering one of the greatest public health crises in its history. In 2017 and 2018, more than 2300 people died of overdose in Philadelphia. Despite targeted efforts to address the opioid crisis, we have seen little improvement in slowing the death toll.
In 2017, Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney convened a task force to combat the epidemic. The taskforce issued a report with 19 recommendations; among them was support for an overdose prevention site.
Safehouse, a public health approach to overdose prevention in Philadelphia, emerged from this recommendation.
The Scattergood Foundation and The Curaterra Foundation decided to fund Safehouse’s efforts to implement what is now poised to be the nation’s first lawful medically supervised consumption site. We did this for many reasons. Our reasons are rooted in a desire to contribute to saving lives and lowering the harms associated with intravenous drug use-including preventing HIV and hepatitis transmission. We also hope that Safehouse will further connect people with other health, treatment, housing and social services and ultimately create a safer community by reducing drug use in public spaces and publicly discarded paraphernalia.
We view Safehouse as an evidence-based initiative that is both a vital piece of a harm reduction strategy and a long-overdue drug policy reform effort. We recognize that Safehouse will not end the epidemic, but it will save lives as it offers a safe place to consume drugs with sterile equipment and immediate access to treatment, and life-saving medical care.
Despite the federal government’s opposition to Safehouse, the IRS granted Safehouse tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This means, funders may support Safehouse.
As funders of harm reduction efforts, we want to be on the right side of this issue, the side of saving people’s lives. To us that means supporting controversial, yet lawful initiatives, like supervised consumption. We hope you will join us in considering support for Safehouse or other similar life-saving interventions.