Image: The medically-supervised safe injecting room in North Richmond, Victoria
Burnet Institute welcomes Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement of an extension for the medically supervised injecting room in North Richmond, and plan to establish a second facility in the City of Melbourne.
The Victorian Government has accepted recommendations from an expert panel to extend the North Richmond facility for a further three years and set up a second service on the fringe of the Central Business District.
The Cohealth Central City community centre on Victoria Street opposite the Queen Victoria Market is the Government’s preferred new site.
“There is a need for us to do more to save lives and change lives not just in North Richmond, but according to our expert panel, in the City of Melbourne,” Mr Andrews said.
“And that’s why we as a government will bring a bill to the Parliament to establish a second medically supervised injecting room in the City of Melbourne, on Victoria Street … in the Cohealth community centre.
“They are keen to potentially operate this service to provide care and support and safety to arguably one of the most vulnerable groups in our community, the injecting drug using community.”
Professor Paul Dietze, Burnet Institute Program Director Behaviours and Health Risks said the North Richmond injecting room had successfully treated a large number of overdoses and was achieving its aims.
“We fully support its continued operation in that context,” Professor Dietze said.
“The Melbourne drug market is somewhat dispersed, and the idea of opening another facility also makes a lot of sense given the number of people going through North Richmond is high, and we need to be able to service the broader community as well.”
Burnet Institute provided direct input to the review, which was led by Professor Margaret Hamilton, an executive member of the Australian National Council on Drugs.
North Richmond is the busiest medically supervised injecting room in the country, with 4350 people registered.
Since opening in June 2018 on a trial basis, the service has made more than 13,000 referrals to health, counselling, housing, family violence and social support services.
While the North Richmond facility has not recorded a single death in its two years of operation, there were 51 heroin-related deaths in the City of Melbourne in the period 2015-2019.
“When you have expert after expert, law enforcement, the ambulance service, people who have spent their entire lives providing drug and alcohol support to a very vulnerable group of people … and families who have a loved one missing … you have to rethink things, and that’s what we did,” Mr Andrews said.
“We are obliged to provide pathways to care and support, pathways to giving people the control over their lives that they and their loved ones so desperately want.”