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Safe drug injection spaces to open in Brussels by end of year
Two supervised injection sites should be ready to open in Brussels-City by the end of the year, according to mayor Philippe Close. One will be on Rue de Woeringen near the Chapelle train station, and the other somewhere in the Northern Quarter. The latter will be managed by the Brussels region.
Supervised injection sites – known by other names such as safe consumption spaces and harm reduction centres – offer a place for users to inject drugs such as crack, heroin or other opioids. Already in use in several European countries, including France and the Netherlands, the sites ensure that drug users practice safe injections with clean needles.
Staff at the sites are on hand to prevent overdoses from occurring and to provide health-related information. Supervised injection sites have been credited with lowering the rates of transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C and of providing a crucial first point of contact for people who can otherwise be hard to reach, let alone monitor.
‘A Mecca for junkies’
“The rooms allow drug users to more easily access help and to receive follow-up care,” Close told the city council this week. Parties CDH and MR expressed concerns that such places will simply bring more drug users to already affected neighbourhoods, but Close countered that it is just these neighbourhoods that need the help offered by supervised sites. “Addicts don’t move around to new places,” he said. “They stay in the same neighbourhoods.”
Brussels-City has a budget of €1.8 million to get the Woeringen centre up and running with trained staff. The Transit drug treatment day centre will be instrumental in staffing and managing the site.
“The result will be a de facto tolerance zone for selling and possessing drugs, with all the related consequences,” said Brussels parliamentarian Mathias Vanden Borre (N-VA). “We will be putting our capital on the map as a Mecca for junkies. Sad.”
In the meantime, residents living on or around Rue de Woeringen are invited to an information session about the safe consumption space to take place later this month.
Photo: A safe injection site in Vancouver, Canada
©Laura Thomas/Drug Policy Alliance