The Cork Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force has called for medically supervised injecting centres to be established, where required, outside Dublin.
The move follows a landmark Cabinet decision to set up a centre in Dublin on a pilot basis.
The taskforce passed a motion “calling for support, and further exploration, of medically supervised injecting centres (MSIC)” as part of a range of harm-reduction measures.
In a position paper, the taskforce said it had gathered information from the Cork City needle- exchange service over the past eight months. It found:
The four-page statement said Ireland had significant numbers of people who consume drugs by injecting.
Many of these people were “isolated” from mainstream health services, it said, adding that MSICs were “interventions backed by a strong evidence base which can be effective in reaching this group”.
The taskforce said: “MSICs have been shown to improve both health-related indicators for drug users and broader environmental indicators such as the reduction of unsafely discarded paraphernalia.”
The taskforce said the centres were not “a panacea” and that there are many other issues in Irish drug policy that need to be addressed, including the provision of accessible residential stabilisation, and detox and rehabilitation services for polydrug users and people with complex needs. “However, it is not currently illegal to provide such services — providing them is a matter of resourcing.”
The taskforce said such services would be cost-effective compared to the current situation: “It is important to note that dealing with overdose in public settings is expensive and inefficient.”
The taskforce pointed to research showing there had been 479 ambulance overdose callouts in Dublin over a 12-month period, 212 of them on the street.
It warned that unless the law is changed regarding MSICs, local communities, who identify it as a need, could not set one up.
“In circumstances where, on average, one person a day dies by overdose in Ireland, this position is untenable,” it said.
“Given the challenges that Cork, and Ireland more generally, faces concerning injecting drug use, the Cork Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force supports the recent calls for the implementation of MSICs where needed in Ireland.”
It said the locations of the centres should be “decided on a needs basis”, with an “explicit action” for the implementation of the centres in the next national drugs strategy.
At the time of the Cabinet decision — which will now see MSIC provisions inserted in to the Misuse of Drugs Bill early next year — Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the minister with responsibility for drugs strategy, said he had been lobbied by taskforces and projects in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Galway.
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