The Case for Supervised Injecting Facilities in Ireland: A Day with Ana Liffey Drug Project

The morning after a great night at dinner with colleagues from Scotland and Wales, facilitated by the Ana Liffey staff and I’m looking forward to the day ahead. (It’s also doing wonders for my fitness plan having managed to reach 25,000+ steps yesterday, bonus)

We’re all staying in the same hotel so we make our way to the Dublin Dispute Resolution Centre and in a momentary lapse of judgement somehow I’ve managed to declare myself as the person who knows where they’re going – which almost results in an additional 10,000 steps – but we arrive on time.

It’s an impressive meeting space and the day starts with Marcus Keane, Head of Policy, setting the scene and describing the Irish context regarding drug use, drug policy and the Ana Liffey Drug Project (ALDP) strategy.

  • About 50% of ALDP client group inject drugs
  • Polydrug use is the norm
  • Over 400 people mostly injecting in public in Dublin City Centre, evidence of which we saw yesterday

Two of the main services they advocate for in their Strategic Plan are;

  • Medically Supervised Injecting Centres
  • Low Threshold Residential Stabilisation Centres

Dawn Russell, Head of Services, goes on to describe the service delivery of ALDP, which was founded in 1982 and incorporated in 1985, now employing around 35 staff. They provide an impressive range of services, more of which you can read about here, all within a low threshold, harm reduction ethos.

Last, but not least, Tony Duffin (Director) talks to us about how the ALDP has been influencing policy in relation to Medically Supervised Injecting Centres (MSICs).

ALDP announced a statement of intent regarding the drive towards MSICs, highlighted the evidence of public injecting, produced an organisational position paper which was followed by some fantastic work by Marcus Keane, also a Barrister, to produce a legal opinion. This led to legislation being drafted with the Voluntary Assistance Scheme which was formally handed over to the Drugs Minister, Aodhán O’Ríordáin, last year and is currently being considered under the Misuse of Drugs Act amendment bill which they hope will be passed by the Summer of this year.

Tony shows us the video from Sydney’s Medically Supervised Injecting Centre – he too was lucky like me to have spent time in the centre. I’ve seen the video many times and shown it to several people in Scotland – it is an incredibly useful tool, particularly for those who have never seen a service like this before. Everyone is impressed, as I knew they would be.

Some of the advice from Ireland which has been useful in their experience is;

  • Establish the evidence for your proposed change
  • Speak to the self-interest of the various stakeholders
  • Find common ground with your detractors
  • Engage with the media and promote your goal at every opportunity

I am enthused by the work taking place here, for a clearly evident need, and I am positive that they will be successful in implementing Supervised Injecting Facilities in the near future.

Many thanks to the ALDP for sharing their experience with us and congratulations to everyone involved so far, keep up the great work! I look forward to sharing this information with colleagues in Scotland 😉




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