Melbourne’s safe injecting room trial saving lives but upsetting locals


April 20, 2019 15:45:54

The Victorian Government is introducing a number of changes to improve the running of the state’s medically supervised safe injecting room in North Richmond in the wake of concerns from local residents.

Key points:

  • A new, larger safe injecting room will open in the middle of the year
  • Operating hours will be extended to meet unmet demand for the facility
  • Local MPs said the trial had attracted more drug users to the area and affected the local amenity

The hours of operation will be extended by 21 hours a week to address the unmet demand once a new facility that is twice as large opens in the middle of the year.

The two-year trial has been declared a success by the Government and the ambulance service, but local residents have raised concerns about some unintended consequences.

City of Yarra Councillor Stephen Jolley said there were more people using drugs on the street than ever before.

“Not everyone who uses drugs is using the centre for a whole number of reasons,” he said.

“I think people support the safe injecting centre but they want more drug reform to deal with the extra impacts of the drug industry that no-one expected.”

Liberal MP Tim Smith, the member for Kew, said the centre had been attracting drug dealers to the area.

“Residents have been saying for months now that this injecting centre was going to be like a honey pot and that hardened drug users from around Melbourne, and indeed drug dealers, were going to congregate in that local area and that is exactly what is happening,” he said.

State Housing Minister Richard Wynne said more will be done to address security, lighting and other issues surrounding the amenity of the local area to address the concerns.

“We know this facility saves lives but we also know there have been some unintended consequences of that, particularly as it relates to demand for the facility, but also the need for more intensive needle and syringe pickup programs,” he said.

The opening hours will be extended once a new and much larger facility opens in the middle of the year, helping the centre cope with the huge demand for its services.

Martin Foley, the Mental Health Minister, said they would also be doubling the number of outreach workers to help drug users get the assistance they need including help with housing.

“We’ve listened to the local community,” he said.

“We’re serious about saving lives but we’re equally serious about improving the amenity of the North Richmond community.”

The cost of the trial and the additional measures being put in place has been put at about $4 million per year.












First posted

April 20, 2019 15:36:30

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