By Gordon Deegan
The planned new State-funded injecting centre for chronic heroin and cocaine addicts in Dublin’s inner city is to cater for around 60 addicts each day and is to open at 6.30 each morning.
Earlier this year, Merchants Quay Ireland won the tender from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to operate the Medically Supervised Injection Facility (MSIF) and the organisation has now lodged plans for the contentious facility with Dublin City Council.
The centre - which is the first of its kind in Ireland consisting of seven injecting rooms - is to be housed in the basement of Merchant’s Quay existing Riverbank building at 13/14 Merchants Quay, Dublin 8 which is located in close proximity to a local primary school, St Audoen’s National School.
The centre already provides a range of homeless, healthcare and drug services and the centre’s ‘Community Engagement & Liaison Plan’ refers to the proximity of the centre to the school when it states: “We fully appreciate the concerns raised by staff and parents of children at St Audoen’s National School. No one wants children exposed to the sight of drug use and drug litter. We believe that the MSIF can provide an effective response to the concerns raised. Research from abroad have shown a reduction in public injecting and drug litter.”
In the area comprising of the seven injecting booths, sterile injecting equipment will be distributed while resuscitation equipment will be located in this area and the individual injecting will be monitored in order to provide emergency care in case of overdoses or other adverse reactions.
The Operation Plan states: “Clients have to be possession of their own drugs, obtained elsewhere, before entering the facility and will not be permitted to obtain or share drugs with other clients while in the vicinity. Clients must inject themselves - staff will not be allowed to inject clients.”
Objectors to the development have until November 12th to lodge objections and already, the proposed facility has attracted two objections.
Shane Cahill operates the Four Courts Hostel on Merchants Quay and has urged the Council to refuse planning permission.
In his objection, Mr Cahill states: “With the services being offered by MQI come a host of anti-social behaviour such as dealers working shifts along the quays on a 24 hour basis, beatings between them, assaults and muggings on the public, public vomiting/urine, defecation, delivery of drugs by car/taxi/bicycle to name but a fraction of the daily occurrences that we see in the area. It is volatile to say the least.
Mr Cahill also stated: “There has been a chronic decline in the safety and comfort for citizens in the area and this will only continue if the MSIF was to go ahead.”
In a separate objection, Pat Coyne from Arran St East, Dublin said: “It is unacceptable that the possession of hard drugs will be allowed within a specified small radius of this centre without any sanction.”
The Operations Plan for the centre states that it will open Monday to Friday 6am to 10am; 2.30pm to 5.30pm and 7pm to 9.30pm.
The facility will operate 6am to 10am and 3.30pm to 9.30pm at weekends and the plan states that the 6am opening is to facilitate drug users who will require the service early in the morning post rough sleeping or those exiting the Night Café and emergency hostels.
On each shift, the MSIF will employ two security workers; eight project workers, a clinical nurse manager, a nurse and the availability of a GP over 30 hours of the week.
Documents lodged with the application state that pregnant women who are injecting drug users will not be excluded from the service and the MSIF will have a dedicated staff member with expertise in the area.
The ‘Operations Plan’ states evidence does not support concerns that injecting facilities encourage drug use, delay treatment entry or aggravate problems with local drug markets.
The plan states: “Instead, they facilitate safer drug use, increase access to health and social services and reduce public drug use and associated nuisance.”
It adds that these services do not result in higher rates of drug related crime.