July 2020 - Page 18

DOORSTEP CHALL HARM REDUCTION Strong partnerships could overturn nimbyism and make supervised injecting facilities a reality, DDN reports A supervised injecting facility (SIF, also referred to as a drug consumption room or DCR) is not the only answer to reducing drug-related deaths, but could fit into ‘a multi-component strategy’ to reduce vulnerability, overdose risk and fatal outcomes from overdose. Introducing an online session, Professor Alex Stevens of the University of Kent wanted to discuss the evidence, the obstacles and a way forward for making SIFs a reality. ‘Not only do they save lives, they help people to improve their injecting technique, access treatment and harm reduction services, and address other vulnerabilities in their lives,’ he said. Release’s executive director Niamh Eastwood looked at whether a SIF could be legal. With the government ignoring the ACMD’s recommendations and continuing to oppose such a facility, three offences relevant to a DCR/SIF stood out in particular – possession, encouraging or assisting a person to commit an offence, and contravening the Anti- Social Behaviour Act. With legislation unlikely to change anytime soon, she suggested that a way forward would be through multi-agency agreements between the police, local authorities, PHE, health providers and prosecution services. ‘Letters of comfort’ could be provided by police to allow local services to provide harm reduction equipment such as citric acid and foil. ‘The impetus comes from local activity,’ she said. DCI Jason Kew gave thoughts on working with the police to open a SIF. His strong view was that it was a health matter – ‘a medical facility, a harm reduction facility’ – and it wasn’t the police’s place to lead on this work. The data on drug misuse deaths showed ‘a clear picture of where we need to act sooner,’ he said. With 78 legalised DCRs operating in Europe without a single drug-related death, we needed to ‘humanise the statistics’. ‘Is there really the public interest in prosecuting a healthcare professional trying to safe somebody’s life? Absolutely not,’ he added. ‘DCRs attract a great deal of emotion for or against them,’ said Rudi Fortson QC. A local memorandum of understanding was the best way forward, he suggested. ‘One has to look at the reality of the situation, which is that despite 14 years of campaigning to even pilot a DCR within the United Kingdom, we haven’t got one. Why not? It comes back to those fundamental issues of public acceptability of a DCR on their doorstep.’ Saket Priyadarshi, medical lead at Glasgow Alcohol and Drug Recovery Service, had been closely involved in making the case for a DCR in the city – a move provoked by an outbreak of HIV in people who injected drugs. A formal health needs assessment by public health colleagues had resulted in recommendations for a heroinassisted treatment service (HAT) and a SIF. Glasgow’s health and social care partnership – which included police and people with lived experience of using drugs in public places – had accepted the recommendations and asked for a business plan for a SIF in the city. SafePoint, a supervised injection facility in Surrey, part of the larger Vancouver area, Canada. Credit: Xinhua/Alamy ‘Is there really a public interest in prosecuting a healthcare professional trying to safe somebody’s life?’ DCI JASON KEW The model they proposed was co-located with HAT and a very low threshold service ‘to capture as many of our target population as possible’, including pregnant drug users. The large fixed-site model ‘would manage the clinical governance concerns being expressed’ and it included an aftercare area. The project is currently snagged by ‘a constitutional stand-off between Edinburgh and Westminster’ but they have made plans around public engagement to manage local concerns and ‘have an evaluation and research agenda in place’. A HAT service has already been implemented in the interim, and they anticipate that the SIF will be a ‘scaled-up version’. The West Midlands had also been developing a model, as Megan Jones, head of policy for the Office 18 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • JULY/AUGUST 2020 WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM