Pubdate: Thu, 15 Sep 2011
Source: Copenhagen Post, The (Denmark)
Copyright: 2011 The Copenhagen Post


Private Initiative Challenges Government Ban on Injection Rooms

Two out-of-service ambulances have been put back into service as
mobile injection rooms for drug addicts.

The vehicles, which were donated by the privately owned emergency
service company Falck, will be used to transport a team of volunteer
doctors and nurses and a stock of clean needles in the Vesterbro district.

The mobile injection room service had its first shift on Monday and is
planned to be on the road twice a week. During the first three hours
of operation, seven drug addicts made use of the mobile facility.

"They are really happy to have a place where they don't risk getting
mugged, where there's light, and where there are no children to see
them," Dr Kasper Iversen, who was one the volunteers, told Berlingske

The team of volunteers can also offer first aid in case of an

One of the project's backers is Michael Lodberg Olsen, who been
working for years to improve conditions for addicts in Vesterbro and
who earlier this year was unsuccessful in an effort to open an
injection room.

"We know from other countries that injection rooms and first aid on
street level save lives and provide significantly better health for a
very vulnerable group of people who currently are forced to take drugs
under unsanitary conditions in the street," he said.

Each year about 300 drug addicts in Denmark die from an overdose,
which gives the country one of the highest mortality rates among
addicts in Europe - surpassed only by Luxembourg and Estonia.

Many other European cities have established injection rooms staffed by
healthcare professionals, and studies show that these facilities
significantly reduce the death rate for drug addicts and even cut
expenses for treating HIV and hepatitis. In addition, crime rates in
the drug-ridden areas have decreased, and streets have become cleaner.

A 2010 Berlingske/Gallup poll showed that more than seven out of ten
Danes support injection rooms. There is also a majority in favour at
City Hall, but the government has blocked attempts to open them.

If the opposition wins the election on Thursday, the Social Democrats
and the SF have announced that they will legalise injection rooms.

Social Democrat health spokesperson Sophie Hestorp Andersen said the
government's opposition to injection rooms has cost lives.

"We want injection rooms introduced as soon as possible, because we
know they save lives," she said.

The Justice Ministry is currently in the process of assessing whether 
the new mobile injection room is legal.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.