Adapting harm reduction services during COVID-19: lessons from the supervised injecting facilities in Australia

Amanda Roxburgh, Marianne Jauncey, Carolyn Day, Mark Bartlett, Shelley Cogger, Paul Dietze, Suzanne Nielsen, Julie Latimer, Nico Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The COVID-19 crisis has had profound impacts on health service provision, particularly those providing client facing services. Supervised injecting facilities and drug consumption rooms across the world have been particularly challenged during the pandemic, as have their client group—people who consume drugs. Several services across Europe and North America closed due to difficulties complying with physical distancing requirements. In contrast, the two supervised injecting facilities in Australia (the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre—MSIC—in Sydney and the North Richmond Community Health Medically Supervised Injecting Room—MSIR—in Melbourne) remained open (as at the time of writing—December 2020). Both services have implemented a comprehensive range of strategies to continue providing safer injecting spaces as well as communicating crucial health information and facilitating access to ancillary services (such as accommodation) and drug treatment for their clients. This paper documents these strategies and the challenges both services are facing during the pandemic. Remaining open poses potential risks relating to COVID-19 transmission for both staff and clients. However, given the harms associated with closing these services, which include the potential loss of life from injecting in unsafe/unsupervised environments, the public and individual health benefits of remaining open are greater. Both services are deemed ‘essential health services’, and their continued operation has important benefits for people who inject drugs in Sydney and Melbourne.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20
Number of pages10
JournalHarm Reduction Journal
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Drug consumption rooms
  • Harm reduction
  • People who inject drugs
  • Supervised injecting facilities

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