Supervised injection centre 'a necessary piece of health infrastructure' for Cork

A supervised injecting facility (SIF) is a clean, safe, healthcare environment where people can inject drugs, obtained elsewhere, under the supervision of trained health professionals, according to the HSE.
Supervised injection centre 'a necessary piece of health infrastructure' for Cork

“People take drugs and use drugs because of life circumstances so we have to address not only the immediate health effects, but the life circumstances people are dealing with, and I think any State agency’s responsibility should be to try to address all those areas," Cllr Dan Boyle said. Stock image.

THERE are fresh hopes for a medically-supervised drug injection facility in Cork City after the green light was given in recent weeks for a similar facility in Dublin.

A supervised injecting facility (SIF) is a clean, safe, healthcare environment where people can inject drugs, obtained elsewhere, under the supervision of trained health professionals, according to the HSE.

Planning permission has been granted for a facility in Dublin, and it was always Government policy to have a facility in Dublin first, Green Party councillor Dan Boyle said.

Mr Boyle, a member of Cork’s Drugs and Alcohol Task Force, added: 

“It’s something by its nature, that some people would be against but I would argue that it’s a necessary piece of health infrastructure that our society needs.”

A scheme in Portugal has seen a sharp decrease in addict HIV infection rates, overdose deaths, and drug-related prison convictions.

“What Portugal has also done is that it has looked at it in a more holistic way,” Mr Boyle said.

“It’s said that investment in drugs strategy also has to be accompanied by increased investment in mental health and support measures and also the crossover where there is homelessness. It’s not the one single measure that will do it, it’s a package of measures.

“People take drugs and use drugs because of life circumstances so we have to address not only the immediate health effects, but the life circumstances people are dealing with, and I think any State agency’s responsibility should be to try to address all those areas.”

Neighbours and local residents’ concerns would have to be taken on board given the sensitive nature of the facility, he added. The best location in Cork would be an inner city site. There could be an initial phased introduction whereby a mobile unit is set up in various locations before a more permanent site is found.

“I know a lot of strategies are being looked at,” Mr Boyle said. “You can understand how concerns might be fed. It was a factor in Dublin, with the delay in the planning decision. It needs to be shown to be a health facility.

“The fears that are created by it coming into existence are very often not realised,” Mr Boyle added. “What we are doing is putting in place a system that takes it away from the criminal and the violence, and you’re having the State take responsibility for its own citizens in a way that it doesn’t through the current system.”

David Lane, head of Drugs and Alcohol Services in Cork and Kerry for the HSE, said an SIF would save lives and prevent overdose deaths.

The service will reduce the visibility of injecting drug use in the city and reduce the challenges around drug litter, he said.

“It will encourage people into treatment services,” Mr Lane said.

“There are massive benefits to be had. It’s been tested and tried in many other cities across the world.”

While there can be conflict around initiatives like this, Mr Lane said he has found “widespread support” for it in Cork.

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