Plans for the creation of supervised drug injection sites in Glasgow have been given the go ahead in principle by the Glasgow City Integration Joint Board (IJB). This board comprises members of Glasgow City Council, the health board and Police Scotland.
The proposals are modelled on existing schemes in Europe, Australia and Canada, and now await the full business case to be made by the Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP), who led an investigation into the problem of public injection in Glasgow earlier this year.
ADP Chair Susanne Millar welcomed the IJB’s decision, saying that supervised injection sites will not only protect drug users but will reduce the potential dangers of public injection to communities in Glasgow. In June of this year, Miller stated in a report: “There are approximately 5,500 drug injectors in Glasgow with around 500 of these injecting in public in the city centre.”
The “safer consumption facilities” as they are officially known, are now to be fully costed and planned before they can be implemented.
The ADP put forward the proposals to combat the ongoing problem of public heroin injection in Glasgow that they claimed would “persist or worsen” if no action was taken.
“Fix rooms” would also need to provide additional linked services such as counselling, advice on housing, welfare and health. In some special cases they would also provide medical-grade heroin to high-risk addicts and it has been suggested there should also be provision made for the supervised inhalation of heroin, both having been put forward as harm-reduction measures with regards to the dangers of injecting street-heroin.
The plans have generated some controversy, not least of all with the Lord Advocate, whose permission will be needed in order to ensure those visiting the facilities are not arrested for doing so. The Minister for Public Health & Sport Aileen Campbell has said that the project is not supported by the government who, she said, have no plans to introduce “fix rooms” and also raised the question of their legality.
Professor Neil McKeganey, founder of the Centre of Drug Misuse Research and so far the highest profile medical voice opposing the plans, has questioned the value of the scheme and has claimed supervised injection facilities “will not reduce the rising cases of HIV infection and other adverse outcomes of drug use”.
This is contradicts a number of public officials who have came out in favour of the proposals, Dave Liddle, the chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum has welcomed the proposals and called for public compassion towards those whom the plan will help. The director of public health at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Dr Emelia Crighton is also in favour of development of “fix rooms”, and has said it shows a move towards European-style addiction services.
The IBJ was told that there is a great deal of evidence that suggests supervised injection rooms, as seen throughout Europe, can make consumption much safer and mitigate some of the most dangerous aspects of injection, such as the risk of HIV, which saw an outbreak in Glasgow last year.