The Government green lights Ireland's first Supervised Injecting Facility

The harm reduction initiative could be up and running in Dublin city-centre by the autumn...

The good news this afternoon is that the Government has approved the publication of the Misuse of Drugs (Supervised Injecting Facilities) Bill 2017, which will pave the way for the piloting of Ireland's first SIF, which is expected to open in Dublin city-centre this autumn.

It will, according to the Department of Health, “provide safe harbour and medical help for chronic users.”

Explaining the philosophy further, the National Drug Strategy Minister, Catherine Byrne says: “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. 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, wellbeing 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.”

The Department of Health statement resumes: “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.”

Despite sensationalist claims to the contrary by an Irish Sunday newspaper, the updating of the Act doesn’t mean that heroin is being legalised here.

“It is important to note that possession of controlled drugs will continue to be an offence outside a supervised injecting facility,” the Department of Health continues. “Possession for sale or supply will remain an offence both inside and outside a supervised injecting facility.”

Who will run the Supervised Injecting Facility, and it's precise location have yet to be determined says Catherine Byrne’s Minister for Health colleague, Simon Harris.

"I know people have concerns about where this first pilot facility will be located, but I want to assure you that no decisions have been made," he stresses. "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.”

The news has been welcomed by Catherine Byrne’s Drugs Minister predecessor, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who first took the idea to Enda Kenny and the cabinet.

“Lump in my throat, I have to admit,” he tweets. “Well done Minister Byrne.”

The current issue of Hot Press includes an interview with Pat Paroz, the ex-Commander of Drug and Alcohol Coordination for New South Wales, who talks about the success of Sydney's Supervised Injecting Facility, and why local residents and businesses in Dublin have nothing to fear from the introduction of one here.


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