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

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journal contribution
posted on 30.03.2021, 00:55 by A Roxburgh, M Jauncey, C Day, M Bartlett, S Cogger, Paul Dietze, S Nielsen, J Latimer, N Clark
© 2021, The Author(s). 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.

Funding

This paper and the programme of work is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant (APP1173505). The NHMRC had no role in the design of this study.

History

Publication Date

01/12/2021

Journal

Harm Reduction Journal

Volume

18

Issue

1

Article Number

ARTN 20

Pagination

10p.

Publisher

BMC

ISSN

1477-7517

Rights Statement

The Author reserves all moral rights over the deposited text and must be credited if any re-use occurs. Documents deposited in OPAL are the Open Access versions of outputs published elsewhere. Changes resulting from the publishing process may therefore not be reflected in this document. The final published version may be obtained via the publisher’s DOI. Please note that additional copyright and access restrictions may apply to the published version.

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