Brussels, Belgium, May 2022 – As part of an approach to drugs based on harm reduction, and resulting from years of preparatory work by the City of Brussels with the support of the Brussels Capital Region, the Gate Supervised Drug Consumption Facility (SDCF) opened on 5 May in Brussels.
It will be Belgium’s second SDCF after that of Liège, which opened in 2018 (see box below). There are currently about 100 SDCFs in Europe1.
Efus in favour of drug consumption rooms
Efus, which has been working on the issue of drugs ever since it was established in 1987, has long been promoting safe consumption rooms as part of a global policy on drugs, which must be based on a balance between prevention, sanction and social cohesion.
In particular, the Executive Committee advocated SDCFs in a 2018 resolution, which states that such facilities “have already brought promising results in several European countries.”Furthermore, the Security, Democracy and Cities: Co-producing urban security policies Manifesto says that “the experience of supervised drug consumption facilities must be continued and assessed in order to guarantee their success and sustainability.” The Manifesto highlights the need to “support the organisations that manage the facilities, ensuring that they consult with all the partners including local residents and businesses” in order to ensure public peace and allow “local resident associations to take part in evaluating the local impact.”
The SOLIDIFY European project
Efus also designed and led the SOLIDIFY European project (January 2018 – March 2020), which was co-funded by the European Commission and whose objectives were to to give cities that host an SDCF specific tools that would enable them to support the organisations that are managing the local SDCF scheme and to evaluate the local impact of such facilities. The City of Liège, the Brussels Region and Brussels Prevention & Security were partners in this project whose recommendations and insights were used by the leaders of the Brussels SDCF project.
A place of safety, social inclusion and medical care
The Gate consumption room is much more than a supervised consumption place. It is also a place where drug users can find safety, the opportunity to socially re-connect, and to consume in a medically safe environment. Manned by a pluridisciplinary team of doctors, social workers and nurses, it is meant to be “a gateway to improved well-being for vulnerable or marginalised people.”
The City of Brussels has partnered with two experienced, long-time operators for the management of the facility: the Transit association caters to the SDCF’s users and helps them manage their administrative affairs, and the Social and Health Centre (Maison d’Accueil Socio-Sanitaire, MASS) provides medical care.
A solid partnership
The project was made possible by the close partnership established between all the relevant actors and levels of governance. A cooperation protocol that clearly defines each partner’s area of competence and specifies how the scheme will operate was signed. It also encompasses security in and around the SDCF, creating a Priority Attention Zone where police will be particularly vigilant on public order and drug trafficking.
“Acting in everybody’s interest”
The Mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close, said that “it was time to act in everybody’s interest, without making people who are addicted to drugs and live in precarious conditions ‘invisible’. Gate will offer them a medical facility supervised by health professionnals, which they can access without any special administrative authorisation. The scheme put them on a path towards improved well-being and health, an improved social and administrative situation, and access to work and housing.”
“Pacifying the public space”
The President-Minister of the Brussels-Capital Region, Rudi Vervoort, said that “the SDCF offers access to medical attention and dignity, and is an opportunity to pacify the public space. Located near open consumption areas (Gare du Midi, Anneessens, Lemonnier, Stalingrad…), this supervised facility is a gateway towards social reintegration, social and administrative recovery, and help towards improved well-being and housing.”
The PACTESUR partners visit the Såf ti* consumption room of Liège
As part of the PACTESUR European Week of Security, the project partners visited the Liège Safe Drug Consumption Facility (SDCF), which opened in 2018.
Led by the TADAM Foundation and supervised by paramedical and medical staff, the facility has two closed rooms, one for inhaling and the other for injecting. The objective is to provide health and social care to users while reducing nuisance in public spaces.
The project started in 2013 after years of medical, administrative and legal discussions with federal and local authorities. At the time, it was a heroin and methadone delivery facility.
Four years after opening as an SDCF, the project leaders consider that it has delivered in terms of social and medical care to users while also contributing to more peaceful public spaces. Special efforts were made to make the scheme acceptable to local residents, and street workers regularly exchange with them.
* ‘Protect yourself’ in local Walloon. It’s also a reference to the English word ‘safety’.