Drug Consumption Rooms and Peer Involvement: Experiences From Lisbon

Author: Adriana Curado Ângela Leite Joana Pires João Caldas Cláudia Dias Joana Canêdo Rui Coimbra

Theme: Models of Care Year: 2022

Peer involvement in the context of HIV and viral hepatitis services has proved to be effective in
creating trusted environments, enhancing engagement and generating positive health and
social outcomes. Considerable less is known on peer-led activities and models to implement it
in the context of drug consumption rooms.
Description of intervention:
The Mobile Drug Consumption Room (MDCR) opened in 2019 as the first sanctioned safer space
in Portugal, and from the beginning peers were employed as full-time staff. However, this model
was not sufficient to ensure a meaningful participation of clients. To promote community selforganization, a peer programme was developed in partnership with a community-led
organization. The programme included small payments (by hour or task), and a group of peers
had the chance to define working methodologies, goals and activities, supported by two
facilitators from the community. Additionally, peers could participate in outreach activities of
the MDCR.
The peer programme started with one group of 10 peers and had 8 meetings between July and
December 2020. Those meetings included peer training, building of an activist agenda and
campaigns, revision of information materials and study visits. A group only for women started
in November 2020 by the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence
Against Women. This group is still running, but became autonomous in its activities (described
elsewhere). The most regular activity has been the outreach work in open drug scenes, which
helped to improve informal consumption spaces by reducing discarded syringes, and
contributed for the positive acceptance of the MDCR in the neighborhoods.
Conclusion and next steps:
Peer involvement is a process that takes significant time and effort. There is no unique model to
implement it, and several approaches have to be tried. Next steps include replication of similar
peer programmes in other harm reduction services in Lisbon.
Disclosure of Interest Statement:
Authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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