Life-saving needle-exchange van receives green light

drugs van

By Democrat reporter

Following the success of Glasgow’s only Injection Equipment Provision (IEP) van, funding has been granted for an additional mobile unit to help tackle the city’s drug crisis by providing crucial healthcare and harm reduction services.

The van, funded by the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce will act as a key touchpoint for people who use drugs to engage with the health service within Glasgow HSCP. Primarily providing injecting equipment to minimise the transfer of blood-borne viruses (BBV) and maximise harm reduction, it will also carry out BBV testing in the community to help tackle the HIV epidemic in Glasgow.

Joining the current IEP van, the new unit will also distribute life-saving naloxone, and act as a key referral service to help people who wouldn’t normally engage with the health service, access the right treatment.

The van will be able to travel to different areas of the city to make it as easy as possible to engage with difficult to reach communities.

It’s hoped the IEP unit will be operational within the next six months, and in the meantime the current van, which has proven to be a vital lifeline for many, will continue its operations in the city centre.

Currently staffed by Turning Point Scotland, it operates every evening and at the weekends. Over 49 consecutive nights throughout the pandemic, staff provided an immediate response for 155 individuals, dispensed more than 10,000 needles and sheets of foil, supplied 162 individuals with naloxone and administered naloxone on three occasions to reverse potentially fatal drug overdoses.

John Campbell, IEP Improvement Manager at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said:  “As reflected on the ground and through wider statistics, we’re seeing a significant positive impact from IEP van as a harm reduction initiative for this particular vulnerable group of people. The impact is particularly poignant in the context of the HIV epidemic, and is allowing us to make significant inroads in providing regular testing and monitoring within the community suffering most from the outbreak.

“Traditional treatment and services simply do not have the same impact on these patients, who often live chaotic lifestyles and have minimal contact with health services.

“The van provides that front door to the health service, and in addition to providing basic immediate treatment if required, patients can be referred onto to the right long term treatment pathway. This could include engaging with a range of specialist services to aid recovery, mental and physical wellbeing, or, putting people in touch with wider social services.

“We look forward to seeing the second van on the road and to be able to multiply the positive work already being done within the community and through the wider harm reduction policy.”

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