17th September 2021
With a legacy of over 800 injections supervised, and no fatalities, within a repurposed ambulance over the last year in Glasgow, founder, Peter Krykant, is passing on his lifesaving Overdose Prevention Service vehicle to Transform Drugs Policy Foundation.
Against a backdrop of record drug deaths in Scotland and across the UK, Peter generated international media attention when he opened an Overdose Prevention Centre out of a van against the wishes of the UK Government in August 2020. Since then, his team have supervised over 800 injections by people who would have used their illegal drugs in alleys and doorways and treated nine overdoses (with the heroin antidote Naloxone) that could otherwise have been fatal. He has also been providing safer injecting advice and sterile needles to prevent HIV infections from sharing.
“When I started the service one day a week from the back of a rusty old van it was always about showing that our laws are outdated and not fit for purpose. Little did I know that we would gain national and international support, plus recognition for breaking down barriers towards providing evidence-based ways to reduce harm from public injecting drug use, an issue that has lasted for decades in the UK. Having upgraded to an ambulance, operating four days a week, and supervising around five injections per hour as well as helping reverse a number of overdoses that could have been fatal, we achieved a lot. However, we now need wider change, with official sites needed to be able to deal with mass public injecting across numerous cities.” says Peter.
With this intention, Peter has passed on the ambulance to Transform.
Martin Powell, of Transform, said: “Transform is grateful that Peter has given us his Overdose Prevention Service ambulance. We intend to take the ambulance alongside our Anyone's Child families, who have all been harmed by the current approach to drugs, to Westminster, the Senedd and Stormont - it has already been to Holyrood - and a series of public events in the heart of the communities most affected by drug deaths and street drug use, up and down the country. The tour will engage with the public and politicians, and explain how a health-led approach to drugs, including Overdose Prevention Centres, benefits everyone with the ambulance set up just as it has been used in Glasgow as the centrepiece. While the ambulance will not be used to supervise injections, we will be exploring other ways it can support measures to reduce drug harms in future.”
With, we hope, the imminent opening of OPCs in Scotland, Transform will continue the ambulance’s legacy as a vehicle for change in our work campaigning for Overdose Prevention Centres across the UK.
“We hope that it won't just be Peter's Overdose Prevention Service that comes south of the border. The Scottish Government is committed to a new health-led approach to drugs - including finding ways to deliver Overdose Prevention Centres, sooner rather than later. When that new approach starts saving lives and benefiting communities, the pressure will be on Downing Street to look, learn and follow suit. So instead of criminalising the vulnerable, England ends up importing not Portugal or Switzerland's compassionate and effective way of dealing with drugs, but Scotland's.” continues Martin.
The lifesaving potential and wider benefits of opening OPCs across the UK should be seen through the lens of saving real people’s lives. Pat Hudson of the Transform campaign Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control, whose son Kevin Lane "arborist, artist and altruist" died in a locked toilet in Carmarthen town centre in December 2017, said: “With the UK experiencing record levels of overdose deaths we need to start introducing innovative harm reduction measures, like Peter's van, to stop our loved ones from dying. No-one has ever died in an Overdose Prevention Centre. I believe my son would be alive today, and several of his friends, had there been such a centre in Carmarthen. I hope that our campaign will influence policy and break down stigma around this issue. We urgently need the Home Secretary to speak out and to allow these vital life-saving centres to open, to stop other families losing loved ones in such a needless way.”
The ambulance’s first stop will be to our Anyone’s Child event in Leeds on September 28th where you can join the discussion about what a new approach to drugs could mean for West Yorkshire, your family and your community. Free tickets for the event are available here.
If you are a group interested in seeing the ambulance, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org