From Philly and the Pa. suburbs to South Jersey and Delaware, what would you like WHYY News to cover? Let us know.
A new Philadelphia City Council group is promising to be laser-focused on fixing the longstanding issues facing residents of the Kensington neighborhood.
Councilmembers Quetcy Lozada, Mark Squilla, Mike Driscoll and Jim Harrity compose the Kensington Caucus. Lozada said it was time to move out of silos and work together for a cohesive plan to fix Kensington’s drug and homelessness issues.
“The residents of Kensington deserve collaborative strategic teamwork,” Lozada said.
At-large Councilmember Jim Harrity, who admits he has a history of substance abuse, lives in the neighborhood and said that the drug and alcohol treatment services offered need to be offered for longer.
“We know we cannot arrest our way out of this. The whole idea is to get these people into long-term recovery,” he said.
Harrity said up to six months of treatment could be necessary to move people out of hardcore substance abuse, and the caucus will work with city and state officials to extend the typical 30-day treatment programs.
“I also know that, from experience being in recovery, that some of us actually do have to get a criminal record in order to get sober,” he said. “For me, it took a criminal record and a heart attack before I decided to finally give up and let God join in.”
He said the effort will focus on long-term recovery, with all services bundled together, including rehab, halfway houses and behavioral health services. Harrity believes it could take up to three months to get drugs out of a person’s system before mental health treatment can be effective.
Councilman Mark Squilla is hopeful that this approach can be replicated.
“What’s happening in Kensington is happening in other communities throughout the city of Philadelphia,” he said. “This will give us an example of how to deal with this. It’s not just to move it from Kensington to another community.”
Squilla said the goal is to break the silos of council legislation and work together on common issues.
“All these concerns need to be brought together and be able to be discussed to see how they’re going to impact other districts and that’s something we haven’t done in the past.”