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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 20 October 2022) . . Page.. 3425 ..

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mr Davis for the question. The CanTEST clinic has already demonstrated that it has proven to be a worthwhile addition. Of course, we will be undertaking an evaluation over the first six months of its operation.

I can advise the Assembly that in the first month there were 58 samples presented. Eighteen of those samples were discarded and 70 health and alcohol and other drug brief interventions were performed. In the second month there was an increase in activity, with 98 samples presented. Sixteen samples were discarded and 140 health and alcohol and other drug brief interventions were undertaken.

I think we can see from this data what we have said from the start. This is not just about pill or drug checking; it is an opportunity to have a conversation. It provides a safe space for people to come in, without judgement, and have their pills or other drugs checked, and to access peer support and professional advice about how they can access supports and treatment, if they need it, and how they can reduce the potential harm associated with drug taking.

In terms of the drugs that have been tested, overall, over the two months, 21 samples of expected ketamine were tested, with 11 actually detected. There were 53 samples of expected MDMA, with 43 actually detected; 19 samples of expected cocaine, with 16 detected; nine samples of heroin, of which all were in fact heroin; and seven samples of methamphetamine, of which six were detected.

MR DAVIS: Minister, how are we evaluating the clinic, and what are our metrics for success at the end of the six-month trial?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I will take the detail of that question on notice. Of course, we have commissioned the Australian National University to undertake the evaluation. That work is already underway in terms of working through the experience, based on the work that was done to evaluate the festival-based pill testing, which looked at the data, the findings from the testing, and also spoke to people who had actually used the pill testing service. Of course, the festival-based pill testing service was for a very short period of time. This will, I expect, produce much richer data in terms of the experience of people who use the service, both in relation to the drug checking aspect and in relation to the health and alcohol and other drug brief interventions, and what people did in following up on those.

This, I think, will give us a very strong indication about the extent to which this service is working to reduce the harms associated with the use of drugs—drugs that people were already intending to take when they brought them to the service. As we can see from the fact that people are discarding samples when they are either not what they expected or they have something unexpected in them, people are paying attention to the outcomes of this and they are using this service in the way that it was intended.

MS CLAY: Minister, how has the feedback you have received on the clinic so far been used to further refine and inform the ACT government’s drug harm reduction approach in general?

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