Lifesaving OPC Van to Tour Wales


On Monday 14 March, an ambulance converted into an Overdose Prevention Centre (OPC) visited Llanelli in a bid to showcase what a permanent unit could look like locally. The van has more stops planned on its Welsh itinerary for spring/summer. It was founded by Peter Krykant in 2020 and was previously used in Glasgow to supervise more than 1,000 injections by people using illegal drugs.

Peter said: “When I started the Overdose Prevention Service in 2020, it was always about showing that our drug laws are outdated and not fit for purpose.

Little did I know we would gain national and international support. Operating four days a week, and supervising around five injections per hour, as well as helping reverse a number of overdoses that could have been fatal, we achieved a lot. However given the scale of mass street injecting, discarded needles, deaths and other health issues, we now need official sites across the UK.”

Overdose Prevention Centres (OPCs) are hygienic, safe spaces where people are able to take drugs safely under the supervision of trained staff. They have access to sterile equipment and staff can respond immediately to overdose.

What is an OPC?

OPCs also provide an opportunity for brief interventions and advice, or for people to  be referred to drug treatment, mental health services, wound care, blood testing and other support.There are currently approaching 200 OPCs in operation across the world in fourteen countries including Canada, Germany, Switzerland, France, Portugal, Ukraine, Norway, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Iceland and the US.

  • OPCs prevent overdose deaths
  • OPCs reduce needle sharing that can lead to infections, including HIV and hepatitis C, as well as public injecting and discarded needles.
  • OPCs help increase numbers entering treatment
  • OPCs are cost-effective reducing costs to health services and police.

Why do we need them?

Injecting drug use happens everywhere. It happens inside homes, but also in the street. Too often the places where people take drugs are unhygienic, dangerous or isolated. Such places make dangerous infections more likely, and make it much harder to deal with overdose.

Until they are able to stop taking drugs, people who are dependent need safer spaces where they can inject. It can help save their lives, as well as helping reduce issues such as discarded needles.

The UK’s Situation

Many local areas are exploring the possibility of opening an OPC. NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government want to open an OPC in Glasgow to help tackle record drug deaths and an HIV outbreak – but currently this is being blocked by the UK Government, despite recognition of their potential to reduce harm.

OPCs are supported by many health bodies, police commissioners, NGOs and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. They have unanimous cross-party support on Glasgow City Council.

In Glasgow, a mobile OPC has been opened by Peter Krykant – acting ahead of any changes to the law. This ‘guerrilla’ facility has changed the debate in Scotland and across the UK. It is now looking more likely than ever that they will receive formal approval. Despite around 150 centres operating worldwide – the UK Government has previously said there are no plans to introduce them here, even on a trial basis.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms in the UK. A range of crimes would be committed in the course of running such facilities, by both service users and staff, such as possession of a controlled drug or knowingly permitting the supply of a controlled drug on a premises.”

What about Wales?

In a recent podcast interview with Kaleidoscope’s Cullan Mais First Minister Mark Drakeford said he “would not rule out” and OPC facility. A compassionate understanding for those battling addictions was clear. He said;

“You have to recognise the fact that there are people, who for whatever reason, end up taking substances that are harmful to them, and you have got to approach that in a way that is helpful, and that doesn’t react with a criminal justice response. It’s about recognising the reality that there are people whose lives have been taken over in that way, and it is better for us all if we can find ways to help them deal with their addiction.” To hear more about Drakeford’s views on addiction and criminal justice, watch from 46 minutes in:


Building Community Support

Communities may have concern about the opening of an OPC is their neighbourhood. It is key to consult and inform and educate everyone in advance. In some cases OPCs have been delayed by opposition based on a misunderstanding of the likely outcomes. This is why the OPC tour is so important.

When local residents and families affected by drugs are involved however, support can be built. For example:

  • At the OPC’s Llanelli stop Campaigner Pat Hudson shared the tragic story of her son’s death with ITV News. Pat believes Kevin could have been saved by accessing a supervised drug consumption room – also known as an overdose prevention centre. Pat Hudson’s son Kevin Lane was found locked in a public toilet in Carmarthen town centre in December 2017, just after his 32nd birthday.

    He had suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage following intravenous drug use, and a day later his family made the heartbreaking decision to switch off his life support. Pat believes the “illegality and stigma” around drug use saw Kevin administer heroin behind a locked door, meaning he was not found until it was too late. She says innovative new measures are needed to save lives and is backing calls to introduce Overdose Prevention Centres (OPCs) in the UK.

  • This short video about the Dr Peter’s Hospice OPC has strong supportive quotes from the local residents association, housing, police, and business community.

  • In Melbourne, a group of residents and affected families called the Victoria Street Drug Solutions campaigned for an OPC to open in their area, which it did in 2018. Plans for a second one have now been announced.