Drugs: the SOLIDIFY European project conducts a study visit on harm reduction services in Paris

Paris, France, June 2019In the framework of the SOLIDIFY project, a group of representatives from 10 European cities made a two-day study visit in Paris (FR) on local harm reduction policies, on 17-18 June. They notably visited the Supervised Drug Consumption Room (SDCR) located near the Gare du Nord in Paris’ 10th arrondissement, which, since 2016, welcomes injecting drug users and has sparked lively debate way beyond the neighbourhood. 
The  group discussed the needs and prospects for local harm reduction policies and investigated the challenges and potential such services offer with regard to urban security policies and social cohesion at the local level. 

>> Meeting with the Paris City Council officials…

On the first day of the visit,  representatives from Augsburg, Mannheim and Essen (DE), Lisbon (PT), Barcelona (ES), Brussels and Liège (BE), Paris and Strasbourg (FR) and Ljubljana (SL) met at the Paris City Council with a number of key stakeholders who shape Paris’ municipal harm reduction strategy and overall drug policy, including the SDCR. 

Among the discussants were Anne Souyris, Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of health and relations with hospitals, Stéphane Bribard, Deputy Mayor of the Paris 10th arrondissement in charge of security, prevention and nightlife, Carmen Bach, Director of the Metropolitan Mission for the Prevention of Risky Behaviours, Elizabeth Avril, Director of Gaia association, as well as representatives from the Regional Health Agency, the Interministerial Mission Against Drugs and Risky Behaviours (Mission interministérielle de lutte contre les drogues et les conduites addictives  (MILDECA), and the departmental council of Seine-Saint-Denis. 

… and visit of the Paris Supervised Drug Consumption Room

The group learned about the city’s drug policy and notably its harm reduction strategy which includes the drug consumption room. The three main objectives of the SDCR are to: improve the health of drug users by offering low-threshold services;  improve their social situation by (re-)creating a link between those most marginalised and the public health and social service system, and improving public security by reducing the risks and nuisances related to opencast drug consumption in public spaces. 

The group then visited SDCR Salle Jean-Pierre Lhomme, Espace Gaia, getting first-hand information  on how it is operated, the services it offers, and how it responds to the high demand as the sole establishment of its kind in the greater Paris region. 

>> Visiting support offers for the Paris drug users 

The group was then split up a smaller groups to visit a wide range of sites and services in North Paris, where there are zones of open drug consumption as well as low-threshold harm reduction services and related offers for different groups of users. They notably went to the so-called “crack-hill” around the Porte de la Chapelle, where there are syringe distribution machines and patrols operated by NGOs; the Place Stalingrad, the Eole park and related management of public spaces and gardens and the sleep-in emergency accommodation centre for drug users; and the harm reduction centres Step, Ego and a service centre particularly dedicated to the care of female drug users. 

Following the visits, the participants took part in an exclusive screening of the documentary film The slightest risk (Le moindre risque), which includes interviews with users of the Paris DCR, followed by an exchange with the film director Edie Laconi. 

>> Exchange on the DCR and relations with local residents

The second day of the visit included discussions and exchanges on the DCR’s integration in the neighbourhood and its acceptability, as well as its positive impact on public tranquility and security – an angle that is at the heart of the SOLIDIFY project, which seeks to assess the potential of DCRs to foster urban security and social cohesion. 

For this exchange, the group was joined by Colombe Brossel, Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of all matters relating to crime prevention, security, working class neighbourhoods and integration, Luis Fernandez , Advisor to the Police Commissioner in charge of the prevention of crime and radicalisation, and Marie Jauffret-Roustide, sociologist and public health researcher in charge of evaluating the Paris DCR. Discussions focused on the reduction of nuisances related to public drug use, such as dumped syringes and disorderly conduct of users, neighbourhood resistance to and involvement in harm reduction services, the policing of drug trafficking and use in areas close to consumption sites, and the right balance between harm reduction and repressive responses to risky behaviours in public. 

Following these exchanges, the visit concluded with a project coordination meeting and an interactive feedback session with SOLIDIFY’s  external evaluator, Fons Mertens. 

>> The last field visit of the SOLIDIFY project

After visits to Barcelona (ES) in June 2018, The Hague (NL) in October 2018, Essen (DE) in January 2019 and Strasbourg (FR) in April 2019, this visit in Paris concluded SOLIDIFY’s study programme. 

These visits have offered the project partners  the opportunity to learn about different models of SDCRs and linked services for users. They also were able to see first hand how drug-related challenges affect differently a range of cities throughout Europe, and how policies and legal frameworks vary among countries and regions. 

The expertise gathered in the visits has served to advance the discussion on local drug policies and harm reduction strategies and fed into the audits carried out through SOLIDIFY in  Augsburg, Brussels, Liège, Ljubljana, Lisbon and Mannheim. All these cities are currently reinforcing their local harm reduction strategies with DCRs or related low-threshold services. 

>> SOLIDIFY will conclude in December

The SOLIDIFY project will conclude in December with a final conference co-organised with the city of Lisbon and the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addictions (EMCDDA), to be held in Lisbon on 5-6 December. 

This event is open to the interested public – please find information and register here. The knowledge and expertise gathered through the project will result in a final publication in the form of a guidebook featuring practical advice and promising practices, which will be available to local authorities across Europe. 

More information about Solidify

Efus thanks the co-organisers of this visit for their important contribution: the Paris Metropolitan Mission for the Prevention of  Risky Behaviours (Mission métropolitaine de prévention des conduites à risque) and the Gaia Association.