Injecting Controversy

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Syringes litter a block-long stretch of grass between Gurney Street and the Conrail tracks in Kensington. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Syringes litter a block-long stretch of grass between Gurney Street and the Conrail tracks in Kensington. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

In the 1990s, during the height of the AIDS epidemic, Philadelphia became one of the first U.S. cities to offer needle-exchange programs, which remain illegal in Pennsylvania to this day. Then-Mayor Ed Rendell put himself on the line to support needle exchanges, saying to federal authorities, “arrest me first.” On this episode of The Why, WHYY reporter Bobby Allyn explains why now, in the throes of another public health crisis — the opioid epidemic — Rendell and city officials are backing another controversial “harm reduction” strategy: supervised injection sites.

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