First supervised injection centre approved

A Bill was approved by Cabinet at its meeting this morning allowing the Minister for Health to issue a licence to operate a supervised injecting facility

The government has approved the publication of the Misuse of Drugs (Supervised Injecting Facilities) Bill 2017 allowing for Ireland's first supervised injection facility. 

The Bill, which was approved by Cabinet at its meeting this morning, will allow the Minister for Health Simon Harris to issue a licence, with conditions, to operate a supervised injecting facility. This is a controlled environment where drug users may self-administer, by injection, drugs they have brought with them.

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. They will also help alleviate the problems associated with injecting on the street, including drug-related litter.

A location for the facility has yet to be established. However, a pilot facility is planned for Dublin city centre.

Minister Harris said that he is "delighted to be bringing forward this important legislation that adopts a health-led approach to drugs-use by those in our society who have been marginalised as a result of their addictions."

The provisions of the Bill would also:

  • Exempt authorised users from the offence of possession when in the facility, and with the permission of the licence holder
  • Provide an exemption for licensed providers whereby it is currently an offence to permit the preparation or possession of a controlled substance in premises
  • Enable the Minister to consult with the HSE, An Garda Síochána, or others on matters relating to a supervised injecting facility, and enable the Minister to make regulations relating to the operation of such facilities

The possession of controlled drugs will continue to be an offence outside a supervised injecting facility. Possession for sale or supply will remain an offence both inside and outside a supervised injecting facility.

'A safe harbour'

Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne said that the facilities – the first of which will be run on a pilot basis - will be a safe harbour for chronic drug users.

"They will provide a controlled place for people to inject, but will be much more than that - a place to rest, have a chat and access the services people need," she said. "I believe in a health-led and person-centred approach to the drug problem. For me this is all about people and looking after the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society.

"The human cost of public injecting is clear and keeps adding up – the lack of dignity, the effect it has on people’s health, well-being and safety. We know that these facilities are not the sole solution to the drugs problem and many other steps are needed, but I am committed to doing everything we can to help those who need it most."

Concerns

Minister Harris acknowledge public concern surrounding the location of the centre, saying that "no decisions have been made".

"The HSE will be undertaking a process of consultation, including with local stakeholders and communities. Any decision on the location of the pilot facility will be informed by the outcome of this consultation process."

How do we compare?

Drug consumption rooms have been operating in Europe for 30 years, with the first drug consumption room opening in Switzerland in 1986. Last year, the first supervised injecting facility in France was opened in a suburb of Paris.

There are now almost 90 drug consumption rooms operating around the world.