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New research undertaken on the streets of Richmond and Abbotsford has revealed increasing health risks for people who inject drugs and significant community concern over the impact of injecting in public areas.
The Burnet Institute report, ”North Richmond Public Injecting Impact Study” by Dr Robyn Dwyer, Professor Robert Power and Professor Paul Dietze was released on Monday 20 May.
The researchers identified increasing high rates of heroin-related overdose attendances by Ambulance Victoria (The City of Yarra had the highest number of attendances of any local government in Melbourne); a four-fold increase in the past two years in the collection of needles and syringes from disposal bins and street-sweeps; and a lack of access to sterile injecting equipment after hours and on weekends leading to a medium to high risk of blood-borne virus infection amongst people who re-used syringes.
Burnet’s Professor Paul Dietze said new public health responses were needed to address the public injecting issues in North Richmond.
“Our research identifies two main priorities; to improve access to harm reduction services and materials, and a need to improve public amenity for those who live and work in the area,” Professor Dietze said.
“Effective public health responses require whole-of-community, holistic strategies that balance the requirements of health with those of law enforcement to reduce harm to individuals and the community.”
Among the report’s 13 recommendations are the need to extend hours and coverage of needle syringe programs to ensure 24-hour access; greater collaboration between Police and local services to encourage service use; and the need to encourage people who inject drugs to take control of their health and safety.
The research was conducted by the Burnet Institute in partnership with the Yarra Drug and Health Forum, the City of Yarra, and North Richmond Community Health Centre, and was funded by a Centre for Research Excellence into Injecting Drug Use grant.
Data collected included structured observations, interviews with key stakeholders (including local traders health workers, welfare and community workers, police, people who inject drugs and and residents), and secondary indicators such as needle and syringe disposal, and Ambulance Victoria data.
Click here to hear ABC 774 Melbourne’s Jon Faine interviewing Professor Paul Dietze, Greg Denham from the Yarra Drug and Health Forum, a person who injects drugs and a Richmond retailer (scroll to 15.30 minute mark).
Listen to the ABC’s current affairs show, The World Today’s report on the Burnet Institute’s North Richmond Public Injecting Impact Study. Simon Lauder reports from Melbourne.
Co-authors of the report (L-R), Professor Robert Power, Professor Paul Dietze and Dr Robyn Dwyer