Injection room operator: Political indecision will cost lives

During election, coalition parties promised a permanent injection room by end of year
The Copenhagen Post (Denmark)
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The government’s indecision over plans to set up a permanent injection room for drug addicts may cost the lives of over 100 users, according to Michael Lodberg Olsen, the organiser of a mobile injection room. Astrid Krag, the health minister, last week scaled back the government’s election promise to have a permanent room set up by the end of the year.

“We are in favour of establishing the room, but it must be done at the right time,” Krag told Politiken newspaper.

The government is concerned over the financial feasibly of the room. The Social Liberal health spokesperson, Camilla Herson, said that support for drug users has not disappeared from the government’s radar, but that “we cannot guarantee that a permanent injection room will come on the budget for 2012”.

There is also legislative uncertainty surrounding the opening of a permanent injection room. Last week, the Social Democrat health spokesperson, Sophie Hæstorp, told Politiken “we are missing a professional to evaluate if a legislative amendment is required”.

Olsen told The Copenhagen Post he found it hard to understand why the legal and financial issues weren’t ironed out before the election promises were made.

“It’s unbelievable they’ve talked about this for so many years and now that they have the power to make something happen they have no idea what to do,” he said.

Since September Olsen has run a mobile injection room as a temporary alternative. He feels the disputes over legalities should be a non-issue.

“If the government fluff around for more than a year discussing legal issues, statistically one hundred and fifty addicts will die,” he said.

While the mobile injection room is proving popular - 161 addicts have used it in the past two months - Olsen said it’s not enough. He said he would like to engage in dialogue with politicians, but his main focus must be on keeping the mobile injection room operating.

“Our aim is to secure funding for the mobile room for a year and after that we expect the government to deliver on their promises,” he said.