Home > Policy windows for drug consumption rooms in Finland.

Unlu, Ali and Tammi, Tuukka and Hakkarainen, Pekka (2022) Policy windows for drug consumption rooms in Finland. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, https://doi.org/10.1177/14550725211069287.

External website: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/145507252...

Background: Use of drug consumption rooms is a novel harm reduction approach to reach marginalised and isolated people who used drugs, under the high risk of overdose deaths and infectious diseases. The aim of this article was to evaluate the policy opportunities and barriers of the Helsinki City initiative for establishing the first drug consumption room (DCR) in Finland from the multiple streams framework.

Method: A qualitative interview research method is used to evaluate the perspectives of stakeholders. By including 23 participants, we analysed the political, social and policy level advantages and disadvantages of the current initiative.

Findings: Our results show that the cost of DCRs, the COVID-19 burdens on public resources, the requirement of legislative change, public unawareness, potential policy failure of DCRs, and its impacts on electoral votes constitute the main policy barriers. On the other hand, an increase in drug-related deaths, economic benefits of DCR for society, its effects on street safety and public order, being a local initiative, prospectus change in national drug strategy plans and motivation to catch up with EU standards were underlined as policy opportunities. Four issues, leadership, moral perspective, social change and generational differences, act as mediating factors, which are fluctuated according to public opinions and political environment.

Conclusion: By applying the multiple streams framework, our results show that experts’ DCR problematisation is still beyond the public and political interest, which needs additional effort around problem identification and prioritisation. Besides public unawareness, the COVID-19 situation seems to be postponing policy progress since the primary attention and available funds have already been dedicated to public health. Already having a local initiative and an upcoming drug strategy plan might be good formal leverage, but unexpected events might also trigger discussions.

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