Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 42 - Proposed legislation [13702/16].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 42 - Proposed legislation [13702/16]. (02 Jun 2016)

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42. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Health Simon Harris when he will finalise and publish the misuse of drugs (amendment) Bill 2016; when he will establish the pilot supervised injecting facility arising from this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13702/16]


Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Government policy in relation to drugs emphasises the importance of providing the opportunities for people to move on from illicit drug use, through drug treatment and rehabilitation, to a drug-free life where that is achievable. The provision of harm reduction measures, such as needle and syringe programmes and methadone maintenance treatment, reduce drug-related harm and facilitate recovery by providing a pathway into services.


 However, there is a problem with street injecting in Dublin and elsewhere. This practice is unhygienic and poses a significant health risk for the drug users themselves and results in discarded needles which present a public health risk to others.


 The establishment of supervised injecting facilities has been proposed to ameliorate this problem. The Government has committed to supporting a health-led rather than criminal justice approach to drugs use including legislating for supervised injection facilities.


 A supervised injecting facility works to prevent injury and death, and connect people with help, by the provision of a supervised space where drug users may self-administer drugs by injection in safer conditions, and where immediate care can be given in the event of overdose. Unlike other forms of Drug Consumption Rooms, it does not make provision for consumption by other routes of administration, such as smoking.


 On the 15 of December 2015, the Government decided to include additional Heads in the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill to provide enabling provisions for supervised injecting facilities. These provisions would enable the Minister for Health to issue licences permitting the establishment of supervised injecting facilities to provide enhanced clinical support to, and mitigate the problem of public injecting by, chronic drug users.


 Drafting of the Bill by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel is at an advanced stage and, subject to approval by Government, it is anticipated that it will be published in coming months. The Bill and the subsequent Ministerial regulations made thereunder, will allow for the licensing, provision and operation of supervised injecting facilities under specific circumstances, whilst protecting the public health and ensuring that the prohibition on possession and supply of illicit drugs outside of such facilities is adequately maintained.


 It is envisaged that initially one supervised injecting facility would be established on a pilot basis in Dublin city centre. An independent evaluation would be an intrinsic element to this initiative; determining the utility, safety and cost-effectiveness of the supervised injecting facility in an Irish context. The outcome of such an evaluation will inform any decision to licence further facilities. In line with the experience of other countries which have established such facilities, it would be expected that the numbers would be few and the locations carefully selected to address most effectively the requirements and concerns of the service users and the wider community.

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