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Green light for injecting centres

Wednesday, 17th May, 2017 1:01am

A supervised injecting facility for drug users could be on the cards for Galway City.

The facility was first mooted two years ago by then Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who proposed such centres in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Galway.

The opening of Ireland’s first supervised injecting facility is now one step closer after the legislation passed its final stage last week.

An exact location for the first supervised injecting facility has yet to be established, however a pilot facility is planned for Dublin city centre and is expected to be operational this year.

There are estimated to be around 500 heroin users in Galway City and County.

Galway City businesswoman Tara Dalrymple, who previously spearheaded drug litter clean ups in Galway as well as launching an interactive website to track drug litter in the city, believes a supervised injecting centre would be of benefit to Galway.

However, she warned that it would have to be “planned very well”.

“It’s a problem that’s not going to go away and we can’t just keep ignoring it. Having this centre, I believe, would benefit people but it would have to be in a place whereby it’s not going to encourage anti-social behaviour so that is a big thing that needs to be thought about. But, yes, I do think it would be of benefit to the city,” she stated.

According to Ms Dalrymple, the support available to drug users from such supervised injecting facilities would be a major benefit.

“To actually have a system whereby people are not just being able to inject but also getting support as well for themselves but also for families I think that’s really important. It’s not just offering a place to inject but also a soft support that goes with it.”

A controlled environment

Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne welcomed the passing of the Misuse of Drugs (Supervised Injecting Facilities) Bill 2017 through all stages in the Oireachtas last week – paving the way for the introduction of Ireland’s first supervised injecting facility.

The Bill will allow the Minister for Health to issue a licence, with conditions, to operate Ireland’s first supervised injecting facility – a controlled environment where drug users may self-administer, by injection, drugs they have brought with them.

According to the Department of Health, such facilities will provide access to “clean, sterile injecting equipment and have trained staff on hand to provide emergency care in the event of an overdose, as well as advice on treatment and rehabilitation”.

It is also hoped the space will help alleviate the problems associated with injecting on the street, including drug-related litter.

To date there are almost 90 drug consumption rooms operating around the world. Evidence from these sites demonstrates a reduction in fatal overdoses and transmission of blood borne diseases; a decrease in the incidence of public injecting; significant reductions in drug related litter, and no increase in the use of drugs or of drug-related crime.

Mobile unit

Ms Dalrymple also believes a ‘mobile’ supervised injecting unit, similar to a mobile library, could also work.

“I’ve been discussing this with a few people in the past and we thought of a mobile unit which meant that it wouldn’t be in a set space. I suppose nobody wants it on their back door essentially. Everyone says this is going be a great idea but nobody wants it near them or schools or anything. So we thought of a mobile one, whether that’s going to work or not but I think it’s needed. I think Galway would benefit extremely from having such a centre,” she said.

The Fairgreen area in Galway City was noted as a particular drug hotspot by Ms Dalrymple last year. However, after getting in touch with the relevant authorities and organising regular clean ups in the area, she said they have made “really great traction”.

But, she warned, it’s an ongoing campaign.

“Getting rid of these places is obviously great because you’re getting rid of that certain area however people are just going to go somewhere else so it’s getting it out of one area but possibly creating another. So that’s why, going back to this safe injection centre, this is where these kind of places really come into their own.”

More steps 

Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne, who has driven the legislation since her appointment just under one year ago, acknowledged that supervised injecting centres are “not the sole solution to the drugs problem” and said many more steps are needed.

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