A mobile drug aid van is being launched in Dublin to help prevent and respond to overdoses among the most vulnerable of drug users.
The vehicle and its staff can provide a range of interventions, including overdose antidotes and clean injecting equipment, harm reduction information and referral to a range of health services.
Ana Liffey Drug Project is launching the initiative today as part of International Overdose Awareness Day.
The mobile harm reduction unit is supported by HSE Social Inclusion Dublin North City & County. The van was donated to Ana Liffey by Lifeline Ambulance Service.
Tony Duffin, chief executive of Ana Liffey said: “It is our experience that bringing the service to the person works. We know that the people we work with, who use drugs in the streets, are at significant risk of harm.”
He said they are “wide open to overdose, vein damage, blood clots, exposure to blood borne viruses and more harms besides”.
He said the people they are reaching experience exclusion and find it difficult to get from the alleyways of Dublin into support services that are available to them.
“Through our work we meet people where they are at psychologically and in this instance literally where we find them - in the streets,” Mr Duffin said.
He said the ‘VanaLiffey’ project has been tested since July and is being officially launched today by the Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland.
“People who use drugs are at risk of overdose and other drug-related harms,” Mr Duffin said. “The most obvious harm is fatal overdose.
“However, there is potential for many more harms associated with using drugs - depending on the type of drug; the potency of the drug, the administration route of the drug; the environment and context the drugs are used in. The people Ana Liffey reach with The VanaLiffey also experience non-fatal overdose which can cause damage to the lungs, heart, brain, etc.”
Donal Cassidy, HSE General Manager for Social Inclusion - Addiction Services in Dublin North City & County, said: “People experiencing homelessness and who use drugs are more likely to die of overdose than the general population. They also face many other drug-related harms.
This mobile unit delivers evidenced-based interventions that are designed to reduce drug-related risks and support people to make healthier choices. This mobile unit is a welcome development, as we continue to work collectively to reduce drug-related harms - and the number of deaths year on year.”
Ms Gilliland said: “I welcome this service development, we know that Dublin has a significant level of drug use on our streets and Ana Liffey is always there working with people to create opportunities for meaningful change, in partnership with other stakeholders.”