A last-minute decision to pull a ‘saving’ service from Canberra’s Groovin The Moo festival has been met with fury.
Pill testing will no longer be offered at Canberra’s Groovin the Moo festival after a shock backflip days before the event.
The pill test is a harm reduction strategy that allows someone who is already in possession of a drug to test it at a booth inside the festival to find out what is actually in it.
People can use the service without fear of exposing themselves to the police, with the aim of preventing people from taking potentially harmful substances they would otherwise have ingested.
Groovin the Moo was the first Australian festival to offer the service, successfully taking place in 2018 and 2019 with support from the ACT government and event organisers.
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However, Pill Testing Australia and Harm Reduction Australia, the companies that provide the service, revealed they could not attend the event this Sunday due to a last minute insurance issue.
“I regret to inform you that the insurance company involved in insuring our service today withdrew their coverage and assistance for pill testing services, despite the detailed risk management work put in place by our team and the Groovin the Moo team,” said Harm Reduction Australia Chairman Gino. said Vumbaca.
“This situation arose shortly after the festival’s insurance company requested substantial additional requirements from Harm Reduction Australia before it could support the inclusion of pill testing services at the festival.”
Mr Vumbaca said the situation was resolved in 48 hours just days before the start of the festival and despite all the documents and plans submitted in advance.
He noted that Groovin the Moo festival organizers have maintained strong support for pill testing and share “deep disappointment” that this service has been withdrawn.
Over 40 volunteers had been trained to provide pill testing services in preparation for the festival.
The news sparked fury online, with people pointing out the move will likely increase the risk for young people attending the event.
ACT Member of the Legislative Assembly, Dr Marisa Paterson said the situation was a “step backwards for minimizing drug harm in Australia”.
“Very disappointing and lives will be in danger,” she wrote on Twitter.
MP Fiona Pattern called the decision “scandalous”.
“This poor decision will increase the risk of harm to young people attending the festival,” she wrote.
Annie Madden, founding member of Harm Reduction Australia, called on the government to step in and resolve the situation.
“This situation cannot be left unchallenged. It is NOT OK for the private sector to dictate when, where and even now IF critical frontline #harmredux services are provided. Governments must step in here to find a #solution said Ms. Madden.
The pill testing trial at Groovin the Moo in 2019 was hailed a success after several drugs were discarded after they were found to contain life-threatening substances.
The pill testers received medication from 234 festival-goers, with 171 samples analyzed.
Seven of the substances tested contained n-ethylpentylone, a highly lethal substance attributed to massive overdoses abroad. It can cause “circulation problems, life-threatening heart palpitations and hallucinations”, according to Dr David Caldicott of Pill Testing Australia (PTA).
The seven people who were found to have the dangerous substance threw their tainted drugs into the ‘amnesty bin’ provided at the festival.
The most common substance found was MDMA. Ketamine, cocaine and methamphetamine have also been detected.
The number of substances tested in 2019 doubled from the previous year, when 85 pills were tested in the trial’s first rollout.
Mr Vumbaca has taken aim at insurance companies, accusing them of increasing the “risk of harm” to young people at these events by denying them this crucial service.
“The message to insurance companies is simple. We are not authorized to provide this important (and potentially life-saving) public health service to young people without insurance and yet, despite all the risk mitigation measures and protocols in place for the service, no insurance company seems ready to service,” he said. in a report.
“Your failure to see how pill testing reduces the risk of harm at festivals has dramatically increased the risk of harm to young people attending the festival and their families.”
Mr Vumbaca accused insurance companies of turning their backs on the community, along with medical professionals and volunteers trying to make the community a “safer and more humane place” for everyone.
“I don’t know what the answer is for the future of pill testing and other services that cater to people who use drugs, but government-level intervention seems to be the only real option to pursue,” did he declare.