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The Bill, which was approved by Cabinet at its meeting this morning, will allow the Minister for Health to issue a licence, with conditions, to operate a supervised injecting facility.
According to the Department of Health, 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,” stated the Department.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said he was “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”.
It was “important to note” that possession of controlled drugs would continue to be an offence outside a supervised injecting facility, said the Department in a statement. Possession for sale or supply will remain an offence both inside and outside a supervised injecting facility.
Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne, said 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. 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 Bill does not establish a location for a supervised injecting facility, but a pilot facility is planned for Dublin city centre. The HSE have established a working group to gather data, consider possible options, and to undertake consultation before any decision is made.
Minister Harris added: “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. 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.”