Aims Supervised injecting facilities (SIFs) are effective in reducing the harms associated with injecting drug use among their clientele, but do SIFs ease the burden on ambulance services of attending to overdoses in the community? This study addresses this question, which is yet to be answered, in the growing body of international evidence supporting SIFs efficacy.
Design Ecological study of patterns in ambulance attendances at opioid-related overdoses, before and after the opening of a SIF in Sydney, Australia.
Setting A SIF opened as a pilot in Sydney's ‘red light’ district with the aim of accommodating a high throughput of injecting drug users (IDUs) for supervised injecting episodes, recovery and the management of overdoses.
Measurements A total of 20 409 ambulance attendances at opioid-related overdoses before and after the opening of the Sydney SIF. Average monthly ambulance attendances at suspected opioid-related overdoses, before (36 months) and after (60 months) the opening of the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC), in the vicinity of the centre and in the rest of New South Wales (NSW).
Results The burden on ambulance services of attending to opioid-related overdoses declined significantly in the vicinity of the Sydney SIF after it opened, compared to the rest of NSW. This effect was greatest during operating hours and in the immediate MSIC area, suggesting that SIFs may be most effective in reducing the impact of opioid-related overdose in their immediate vicinity.
Conclusions By providing environments in which IDUs receive supervised injection and overdose management and education SIF can reduce the demand for ambulance services, thereby freeing them to attend other medical emergencies within the community.