Filter Video: Inside Portugal’s First Mobile Safe Consumption Site

June 10, 2019

In April of this year, Portugal, a country well known for having decriminalized all drugs in 2001, got its first safe consumption site—on wheels. It’s a brand-new, shiny white Peugeot Boxer van.

For this original Filter video, I spoke with Adriana Curado, a psychologist from Grupo de Ativistas em Tratamentos (GAT; Group of Activists in Treatment) and Diana Gautier, a social worker with Médicos do Mundo (MdM; Doctors of the World). The two women are co-coordinators and staff members of the Lisbon-based van, and believe that their mobile safe consumption site is a vital way to meet people who use drugs “where they’re at.”

The van is stocked with all the supplies needed to inject safely. Inside are two stations with a table and chair for injecting drugs and a private space where people can meet with staff. Hepatitis C and HIV testing and a “kit redução de riscos” are available to everyone in the community where the van parks.

The van is staffed with two peer educators, one social worker, one psychologist, two nurses and one doctor. It is operated by GAT and MdM and funded by the Lisbon City Council. Two fixed safe consumption sites are also scheduled to open in Lisbon later this year. Another mobile unit will soon be available in Porto, as was recently announced by the city’s mayor at the Harm Reduction International conference.

Helen Redmond

Helen is the senior editor of Filter. She has written about nicotine, mental health and drug policy for publications including Al Jazeera, AlterNet, Harper’s and The Influence. As an LCSW, she works with drug users in medical and community mental health settings. An expert on tobacco harm reduction, she provides training and consultation on mental health, nicotine use and THR, and in 2016 organized the first Tobacco Harm Reduction Conference in the US. Helen is also a documentary filmmaker.

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