The Home Office has responded to a Glasgow City Council motion in favour of safer drug consumption facility by highlighting the health benefits of safer injecting.
The council unanimously supported a motion in April for the council Chief Executive to write to the Home Secretary to highlight the city's backing for a safer drug consumption facility.
In the response received by the council, the Home Office said 'the Government is well aware of the potential health benefits of DCRs (drug consumption rooms)'.
The letter also identified a range of reports which acknowledge the positive outcomes and effectiveness that safer consumption rooms can have in tackling various issues linked to chaotic public drug use.
The reports contain evidence that highlights:
- 'Effectiveness in addressing the problems of public nuisance associated with open drug scenes and in reducing the health risks for drug users.'
- 'Effectiveness of facilities in Vancouver and Sydney, noting they reduce injecting risk behaviours and overdose fatalities.'
- 'Drug consumption facilities have the ability to reach and maintain contact with high-risk drug users who are not ready or willing to quit drug use.'
While the letter maintained the UK Government's position that they have no plans to introduce DCRs, the fact that the Home Office has acknowledged the extensive international evidence in favour of DCRs is being viewed as a significant change in attitude.
Councillor Mhairi Hunter, the City Convener for Health and Social Care Integration, welcomed the letter as a sign that the Home Office is taking on board the evidence on DCRs.
Councillor Hunter said: "The letter from the Home Office shows they are listening to what is being said about a safer consumption room in Glasgow.
"Within the Home Office letter there is a far greater acknowledgement of the evidence in favour of safer consumption rooms than we have ever seen before. It shows that continuing to highlight the benefits of DCRs is having an impact on thinking in the Home Office.
"The reports highlighted by Home Office link DCRS to reductions in drug deaths, risky injecting and public nuisance as well as better engagement with vulnerable drug users who are otherwise remote from support services.
"This is exactly what we have been saying in Glasgow for the past two years. It was remarkable to see the Home Office essentially accept the arguments we have been making about the potential benefits of a safer consumption room.
"We do understand the sticking points for the Home Office and work has already been undertaken to address those concerns. But I see a clear basis for on-going dialogue with the Home Office about the proposal for safer drug consumption facility in Glasgow.
"The public health case for a SDCF is as compelling as ever. All the evidence shows that a SCDF in Glasgow will prevent drug deaths, stem the spread of HIV infection, reduce drug-related litter and save services millions of pounds each year. We will continue to make the case that harmful drug use must be treated as a public health issue as a matter of urgency."
The concerns raised by the Home Office letter centre on the links between drugs and crime, including the possibility of dealing within a SDCF. Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership has already begun discussions with Police Scotland on protocols that would not tolerate any drug dealing within the facility. The HSCP has been studying how existing facilities around the world already operate and sharing that learning with the police.
The letter also indicated that the Home Office is supportive of a Heroin Assisted Treatment programme being established in Glasgow.