A room in the north of Wales where people would be able to take drugs without fear of prosecution would ‘save lives’ according to the Police and Crime Commissioner for the area, Arfon Jones.
Speaking to Nation.Cymru, Arfon Jones argued that people needed to be allowed to take drugs they were addicted to in a ‘safe’ and ‘controlled’ space.
He said that he hoped that a pilot safe injecting facility could be established in Wrexham.
‘It costs around £65,000 to send somebody to prison in this country once police, court costs and all the other steps are taken into account,’ Arfon Jones, 61, said.
‘After that it costs a further £30,000 plus for each year they spend locked up. Is it money well spent? No, it certainly is not.
‘It’s a self-destructive vicious circle. People who are addicted to drugs often steal so they can buy their next fix.
‘They are arrested, prosecuted and sent to prison. They come out of prison still addicted and the cycle starts all over again just like a horror version of Groundhog Day.’
Arfon Jones was inspired by a trip to a Drug Consumption Room in Geneva, Switzerland. He noted that it had reduced drug-related crime in the area to ‘almost zero’.
Research on the value of fix rooms is currently being carried out by the Welsh Government Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse, and will be presented to Public Health and Social Services Minister, Rebecca Evans.
However, there are concerns that Westminster legislation could put the brakes on plans for such medically supervised injecting centres.
But Arfon Jones claimed that new legislation wasn’t necessarily needed, as a similar idea had already been given the go-ahead in Glasgow.
‘We do however need a change of culture and the buy-in of organisations like the Area Planning Board, the health board and the local authority so we can work in partnership,” he said.
‘Every life lost has an emotional cost to the family, friends and society in general, as well as the public purse.
‘Saving lives by adopting sensible harm reduction measures would be a win-win for everybody.
‘A Drug Consumption Room is a natural progression from other measures like the provision of needles which resulted in reducing the number of HIV cases.
‘This isn’t for people who are in an advanced stage of their recovery. Some people aren’t ready to quit yet, and this ensures that those people are still looked after and cared for.
‘In short, the bottom line for me is that a drug consumption room would save lives.’