July 2020 - Page 19

ENGE ‘We know there are unofficial consumption rooms... but we don’t have DCRs that can call themselves that, or that are recognised in law.’ MARTIN BLAKEBROUGH of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, explained. The office had begun by looking at the scale of the drug problem in the region, with the cost of heroin and crack cocaine users calculated as £1.4bn and the cost of crime committed by the average heroin or crack user as £26,000. A drug policy summit had involved the public in looking at a new approach, with the drivers of reducing harm, reducing crime, and reducing cost. The eight recommendations had included DCRs, and an independent report – Out of Harm’s Way, written by Ernie Hendricks in March 2020 – covered evidence from the UK and across the world. Its two main recommendations were to develop a business case through a multiagency steering group, and to work with government and the steering group to support a DCR pilot site in the West Midlands. We had to be led by the evidence, take the public with us and have an ‘open mature conversation about drug policy and its failings,’ she said. It needed to be done with existing treatment providers and people with lived experience, be linked to the homelessness agenda, and be done through a partnership approach. Martin Blakebrough had been asked to talk about developing a model for Wales, and as CEO of Kaleidoscope he had experience of an early SIF model. In the ’70s and ’80s Kaleidoscope ran a club that also had a needle and syringe exchange in it, with a methadone dispensing system and doctors and nurses: ‘In many ways it was a drug consumption room, but it wasn’t actually publicised as that.’ Health authority staff members work at SafePoint, a supervised injection site in Surrey, Canada. Credit: Xinhua/ Alamy Looking at other places, such as Cardiff, ‘we know there are unofficial consumption rooms there, in hostels,’ he said. ‘So it’s not quite right to say we don’t have consumption rooms – but we don’t have DCRs that can call themselves that, or that are recognised in law.’ The idea that the facility had to be an expensive option was ‘ridiculous’, he added. ‘In Wales we’re saying “it’s just a room”. The idea that we need to create ridiculously safe spaces that are sterile is also difficult – would you want to be drinking beer in a sterile environment? We have to create services that are hugely attractive to the people we want to serve. And they need to be involved in the design and development of that service.’ Peer mentors were the best people to advise someone on how to inject drugs, and the idea should be around creating a space for service users to help each other – ‘and if it’s part of a drug service or adjacent to it, I don’t really see the public outcry,’ he said. ‘Let’s make this happen by using the skills and passion of our drug using community and champions’, giving them the money to run the services, the legal cover, and the clinical assistance they needed to run the place safely. Mat Southwell, technical consultant specialising in community mobilisation for people who use drugs, agreed on the value of peers’ central role and added that it was really important to give drug users choice around a highly medicalised model or a drop-in style community centre approach. ‘If you involve people in the design of a project they’re going to have more investment,’ he said. It was important to think about their inclusion in staffing too, as part of an ‘empathic committed service’. Drug user groups had been ‘pivotal’ to delivering NSP around the country and different parts of the world and were well placed to carry on managing many DCR environments, as they did already. ‘It’s not about saying either nurses or peer educators, but saying what’s the combination we can put together to maximise the impact of a system,’ he commented. Summing up the session, Alex Stevens said it was really important to build the evidence base, both in the UK and globally, for whether and how SIFs work. Three clear stages of development, piloting and evaluation could be taken from the Medical Research Council’s framework and ‘all this needs to be done alongside service user involvement from the very early stages’. We were not starting from scratch, but had research to build on, including a ‘logic model’ of how these services work from Australia and Canada. A look at costs and benefits could lead to a template that people could plug their local data into. Joining in the summing up, the senior police representative Jason Kew added: ‘This is depoliticising it, about saving people’s lives, about keeping people safe – it’s as basic as that. People talk about going soft on drugs, but there’s nothing soft about preventing deaths. Nothing.’ DDN WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM JULY/AUGUST 2020 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • 19