An official date has been set to begin Canberra’s fixed pill testing trial in the City.
The site will be formally launched on 19 July, with doors open to the public from 21 July.
While further details are currently unavailable, ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said it was an “important development” for the government’s harm reduction strategy.
“We’ve clearly identified in the evaluation of pill testing in the festival environment that when people are advised there is something in their drug that they’re not expecting, that is potentially harmful, they will dispose of those pills rather than taking them,” she said.
She stressed people would not be encouraged to take the illicit pills if they weren’t found to be carrying unexpected substances.
“All drugs are harmful and no one is ever advised at one of these checking facilities that the drug they are intending to take is safe,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“That is not part of the model.”
Clinic users would also be able to access information about how to reduce the risk associated with taking drugs, such as drinking plenty of water and spacing out how often they may take a drug.
Additionally, a qualified nurse would be on hand to provide general and sexual health advice.
“We’re looking to make this a safe space for people, particularly young people, to come and ask questions about drugs and also to ask questions about things like sexual health, and get the advice they need to minimise the risky behaviours they’re engaging in in any way,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
The ACT Government would not provide further details, although it has been reported the site would be open two nights a week.
The site would be run by Harm Reduction Australia in conjunction with the Australian National University.
The organisation has previously described the site as a “vital public health service”.
Harm Reduction Australia was also behind the successful pill testing services at the 2018 and 2019 Groovin’ the Moo festivals in Canberra.
Pill testing was due to go ahead at the 2022 festival until insurers pulled their support just days before the service was to commence.
There were fears this decision would impact the opening of the fixed pill testing site, but it would appear those concerns were unfounded.
The opening will also come just over a month after the ACT Government tabled its response to a bill proposing that the possession of small amounts of illicit substances be decriminalised.
At the time, Ms Stephen-Smith said it was another “logical next step” in harm minimisation for the Territory.
“My hope is that this will help to reduce the stigma experienced by people who use illicit drugs, encouraging more people to come forward to receive support,” she said.
“[This] will continue our journey to genuinely treat drug use as a public health matter rather than through the criminal justice system.”