Injecting centre will not have ‘honey pot’ effect, says Byrne

Minister of State for Drugs says supervised facility will not result in crime increase

’What do we do? Do we leave addicts to die on the street?’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/File photo

’What do we do? Do we leave addicts to die on the street?’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/File photo

 

A supervised drug injecting facility in Dublin will not have a “honey pot” effect of attracting drug users or increasing drug crime, Minister of State for Drugs Catherine Byrne has said.

The Cabinet on Tuesday approved the publication of the Misuse of Drugs (Supervised Injecting Facilities) Bill 2017, which will allow the Minister for Health to issue a licence to operate such a facility.

The centre is seen by the Government as a controlled environment where licensed drug users would inject drugs they have brought with them. Users would be exempt from prosecution if found in possession of certain drugs.

The Department of Health said the centres would provide access to clean, sterile injecting equipment and have trained staff on hand to provide emergency care in the event of overdose. Staff will offer advice on treatment and rehabilitation and it is hoped the centre will help “alleviate the problems associated with injecting on the street, including drug-related litter,” the department said.

Ms Byrne said that “international statistics show there isn’t a ‘honey pot’ effect and that possession of drugs will still be illegal outside the centres”.

A location for the first such facility, likely to be in Dublin city centre, has not yet been decided.

“The Bill has to pass through the Dáil and the Seanad first, then we will seek expressions of interest from NGOs,” Ms Byrne told RTÉ’s News at One.

She said gardaí would build up a level of trust with addicts using the centre and that it was a “a very complex issue”.

“What do we do? Do we leave addicts to die on the street? These centres will help by taking addicts off the street, by giving a bit of dignity and compassion to people lost in addiction. We can’t just abandon them on the streets.”

Under the Minister’s plans the centre would open for 12 hours a day, seven days a week and would cost between €1.5 million and €1.8 million per year.

Ms Byrne said that at present addicts were injecting in lanes in view of the public, including children. She said she had visited such a centre in Copenhagen and had been impressed by the clean space, and the dignity and compassion afforded to those who use it.

She said that injecting centres already worked across the world and that such schemes had reduced the numbers of fatal overdoses.

Ms Byrne said there are 300 people injecting in Dublin on a daily basis and many of them were residents of the south and west of the inner city.