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New Study Finds Residents and Business Owners in Philadelphia’s Kensington Neighborhood Support the Opening of a Sanctioned Overdose Prevention Site

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Ninety percent of residents and 63 percent of business owners in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood support opening an overdose prevention site in their neighborhood, especially if it can deliver benefits that curb social nuisances related to drug use, according to a new study co-authored by RTI Distinguished Fellow Alex Kral, PhD in the Journal of Urban Health.

The study, which conducted in-person surveys of 360 adult residents and 79 business owners and staff in Kensington, Philadelphia, found that more than 90 percent had witnessed public injection or observed discarded syringes in their neighborhood in the past 30 days. The researchers also found that a vast majority of respondents knew someone who had died of an overdose and believed the city’s response to the opioid epidemic was insufficient.

“The community’s support is important to note and understand as the city takes steps to combat the overdose epidemic,” said Dr. Kral. “Kensington is a community with the highest drug overdose rates in Philadelphia, and is a prime location to be the home of one of the first sanctioned overdose prevention sites in the U.S.”

The study found higher support among unstably housed residents and persons who currently use opioids. It also found that among business owners and staff, Asian, African American, and Hispanic/Latinx were twice as likely to be in favor opening the site in Kensington as their white counterparts (69 percent vs 27 percent).

Overdose prevention sites, also known as supervised injection facilities or safe consumption sites, currently operate in 120 sites across 10 countries, but no sanctioned sites currently exist in the United States. Previous RTI studies have shown that safe injection sites save lives by successfully reversing overdose with naloxone and increase safety for individuals who use opioids and the surrounding communities. To learn more about RTI’s opioid research, click here.

The study was led by researchers Alexis Roth, Steve Lankenau, Allison Mitchell and Rohit Mukherjee at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health and co-authored by Peter Davidson of University of California San Diego.