The ACT Government has launched Australia’s first fixed-site health and drug checking service in Canberra as a six-month pilot.
CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service will be run by Directions Health Services in partnership with Pill Testing Australia and Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy.
The service will provide chemical analysis of drugs and pills as well as drop-in nurse consultations offering general health, sexual health and mental health advice.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the pilot is part of the ACT Government’s commitment to reducing the harm caused by drugs through effective evidence-based health interventions.
“The ACT is leading the nation with our progressive approach in treating drug use as a health issue and working with trusted community partners to reduce drug-related harms,” Minister Stephen-Smith said.
“This Australian-first program will help people who use drugs to better understand or avoid unknown and potentially dangerous substances in illicit drugs.
“In addition to drug checking, the service will provide harm reduction information, counselling and advice to encourage choices that reduce drug use and associated harms.”
The fixed-site service pilot follows two successful festival-based trials conducted by Pill Testing Australia at the Groovin’ The Moo festivals in 2018 and 2019.
An independent evaluation of the 2019 trial found that drug checking reduced potential drug-related harm, especially for individuals with limited drug-taking experience. The evaluation informed the ACT Government’s Festival Pill Testing Policy released in September 2020.
“We know the safest option is not to take drugs and this will always be our advice to the community. However, we recognise that some people will choose to use drugs and there is a need for initiatives that reduce the harms associated with drug use,” Minister Stephen-Smith said.
“This free service aims to reduce the harms associated with drug use and we will be monitoring its progress throughout the trial.”
The ACT Government has provided funding for Associate Professor Anna Olsen from the Australian National University, in partnership with researchers from other universities, to carry out an independent evaluation of the service’s effectiveness.
The evaluation will provide recommendations for service provision improvements if a fixed site health and drug checking service were to be established as an ongoing service.
Located on the ground floor of the City Community Health Centre at 1 Moore St, CanTEST Health and Drug Checking Service is free and confidential.
It will be open every Thursday from 10am to 1pm and every Friday from 6pm to 9pm from 21 July.