Lisbon city council has selected a space to house what would be the country's first assisted consumption room for drug users, popularly known as 'shooting gallery', as part of plans that are well advanced.

The premises in question is in Rua da Palma, in the Mouraria neighbourhood, near a health centre and a future police station that is due to open this summer, said the coordinator of the council's priority intervention unit for Mouraria, João Meneses.

The main reason for the choice was the fact that it is not in a "zone of major population density, because that in itself provokes resistance from people who don't want consumption rooms in their back yard, in their building, in their street." In addition, it is "a place open to the city and with easy access" by public transport, he noted.

The project is still in a study phase, but is not expected to bring large concentrations of users, Meneses said. Some 50 people are expected to use it, including locals and outsiders.

Legislation allowing for such shooting galleries was passed years ago but it was left up to local councils to implement it on the ground and until now none has chosen to do so.

According to João Goulão, the head of the department of the Ministry of Health who oversees drug policy in Portugal, "this could be an experimental project that could be extended to other areas" of Lisbon.

The aim of such facilities is to try to reduce the harms associated with drug use, such as when needles are shared and become vehicles for the transmission of blood-borne diseases, as well as to enure that users are in more regular contact with health professionals.

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