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Injection rooms approved, but advocates wonder what’s next
The thirty-five year fight to establish permanent injection rooms for drug addicts is now over after the government announced last week that such facilities would be up and running by 2013.
But long-time campaigners are bracing themselves for news on the guidelines for how the rooms are to be run. In the next few days the government will present a catalogue outlining the current drug legislation and amendments that will need to be made in order for injection rooms to become legal.
The proposal has met resistance from the right, which calls the issue is a “legal gray area”.
“If you stand with authorised personal in an injection room it’s legal to take the drugs, but if you get stopped by police five feet from the door possessing the drugs then it’s not legal,” Venstre spokesperson Kristian Jensen told Politiken. “So how should the police act and where should the buffer zone lie?”
According to Michael Lodberg Olsen, a long-time injection room campaigner, “there’s nothing in the law that says injection rooms are not legal”.
It was under this premise that Olsen this autumn set up a mobile injection room as an interim solution until the permanent rooms are in place. “Of course we’re happy that rooms will be up and running by 2013 but it shouldn’t have to take that long.”
Olsen says delaying the opening of the rooms until 2013 will cost 350 addicts their lives. He has written to the health minister suggesting a remedy to address the waiting time. “We have asked for more money to set up a second mobile room. We have had the actual van donated by Falck but we need money for ongoing costs.”
Despite the delay Olsen was positive over the government’s attitude towards addicts. “This government genuinely cares about the welfare of drug addicts and they’re proving this by trying new things.”
So far, plans are underway to have at least one room in Vesterbro, one in Amager and one in the Nordvest district. The city of Odense also has a room ready to go and is waiting for final approval.
How the rooms will be funded has yet to be established. An estimated 60 million kroner will be necessary to establish Copenhagen’s injection rooms. The state is putting pressure on greater Copenhagen local councils to foot the bill, while they say the service is something the state should fund.