ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
More than a dozen Pennsylvanians die every day from an overdose, and overdose rates are trending upward among Pennsylvanians of all races and ethnicities. Almost every overdose is preventable, and families and communities across the commonwealth are being devastated by this needless loss of life. SB 165 is part of a misguided effort to impose a statewide ban on overdose prevention centers (OPCs), a promising element of a comprehensive solution to address this public health crisis.
Overdose prevention centers provide a place for supervised drug consumption—with sterile supplies under clean conditions and with safe disposal of used drug equipment—while under observation by medical staff. Staff are prepared to administer medicines that stop and reverse overdoses if needed. OPCs also provide access to drug treatment (including medication, recovery counseling and education), basic medical services, testing for bloodborne diseases like HIV and hepatitis, and referrals to support services such as housing, public benefits, and legal services.
SB 165 would charge any clinic or establishment that provides space for anyone to "inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the person's body a controlled substance" with a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines for an individual or up to $2,000,000 in fines for a clinic, organization, or other establishment.
These penalties EXCEED the statutory maximum penalties for a first-degree felony. In other words, the penalty for providing a space that can save people from deadly overdoses is more severe than the punishment for murder.
Check the bill's status here.