The Reykjavík City Council unanimously passed a motion yesterday to open talks between the municipality and the Ministry of Health on opening a safe injection site in Reykjavík. This spring, Alþingi passed laws that permit the opening of safe injection sites. An estimated 700 people use intravenous drugs.
A report attached to the motion states that the Welfare Committee passed a policy last summer for homeless people with a great and complex need for support. The policy contains proposals such as establishing a facility for women with concurrent disorders (both a mental illness and a substance use problem), reinforcing the city’s on-location advisory team, allocating 20-25 small houses, purchasing more apartments, establishing a new emergency shelter, looking specifically into women’s position and increasing education and knowledge of issues facing people with substance use problems.
The report also states that the Reykjavík Department of Welfare considers it a positive step to legalise safe injection spaces for intravenous users. Damage reduction is essential, and it’s vital to provide a safe location for these individuals to avoid further harm, sickness or even death.
“according to the ministry’s data, intravenous users experience a great deal of prejudice, also from within the public health care system, which only adds to their predicament, increasing the risk of them not asking for help and support. For the safe injection space to work as it should, it isn’t enough, as many have said, to open a room where people can go, absolutely not. These individuals’ basic needs need to be taken into consideration. They should be able to come in from the street and have access to clean facilities, nourishment, hygiene facilities, clothes, and clean and safe space,” said Heiða Björg Hilmarsdóttir at a city council meeting.
The majority’s entry to the meeting’s minutes read: “By passing this motion, we want to get a safe injection site in Reykjavík, as research has shown that damage reduction-focused actions decrease the negative and dangerous effects of substance abuse. It is our goal to introduce damage reduction ideology into the city’s service, but for safe injection spaces to become a reality, cooperation with the Ministry of Health to provide necessary healthcare is needed. Experience from other countries shows that opening a safe injection site decreases outdoor substance use, thereby improving the local community.”
The laws on safe injection sites were passed in parliament last May, giving municipalities the option to open safe spaces for intravenous substance users. Left-green MP Ólafur Þór Gunnarsson hoped the first such spaces would open this year and called the law “the first step towards decriminalisation of substance use.”