Caregivers who work with addicts in drug consumption rooms can no longer be prosecuted, following the passing of a bill to that effect by the Chamber on Thursday.
The bill, introduced by Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, was designed to protect the health of drug users. “Care providers who help people in a dependency situation must be able to do so without worry,” Minister Vandenbroucke argued.
Belgium currently has two ‘safer drug consumption rooms,’ one opened in Liege in 2018 and another since last year in Brussels. These spaces reduce the risks for users, who share fewer needles and are less exposed to overdoses. They also reduce nuisance in the public space.
Multidisciplinary teams of care providers, including nurses and social workers, are present in these rooms. However, until now, they could be prosecuted for ‘facilitating’ drug use based on a 1921 law.
Regional and local authorities will still be responsible for the supervision and organisation of drug consumption rooms.
The bill provides for a transitional period of six months.