Burnet Institute’s Professor Paul Dietze has strongly endorsed Victorian Coroner Jacqui Hawkins’ support for a medically supervised injecting facility in North Richmond, as a common sense, life-saving initiative as part of a suite of interventions.
In handing down her findings in the inquest into the death of a 34-year-old mother who overdosed in a toilet of a fast-food restaurant in North Richmond, Coroner Hawkins recommended the establishment of a pilot safe injecting facility.
“I am convinced that a safe injecting facility in North Richmond is an essential intervention that could reduce the risk of future heroin overdose deaths,” Coroner Hawkins said.
Professor Dietze, Burnet’s Program Director, Behaviours and Health Risks, said research conducted over 30 years clearly shows that supervised injecting facilities allow prompt response to overdose, unequivocally saving lives.
“These facilities provide a range of other benefits including improved community safety by regulating where people inject, and referral to services like drug treatment,” Professor Dietze said.
“Importantly, there’s no evidence to suggest they encourage drug use.
“This is an initiative where the evidence is very supportive of having an impact on overdose, but other activities need to be undertaken as well, such scaling up efforts around take-home naloxone and ensuring that this life-saving drug is made as widely available as possible.
“We fully support all of the coroner’s recommendations around the supervised injecting facility and the wider accessibility of naloxone and other place-based interventions, which align with Burnet’s submission to the Inquest.”
The Inquest heard there were 172 heroin overdose deaths in Victoria in 2016 - 34 died after buying heroin in the City of Yarra. Of those deaths, 19 were in the North Richmond area known as the “heroin rectangle”.
Professor Dietze urged all members of the Victorian Parliament support these measures in North Richmond.
“Our work shows North Richmond is high need,” Professor Dietze said.
“It’s important to recognise that calls to respond with these measures, including establishing a supervised injecting facility, have come not only from experts and service providers, but from the local community and traders.”
A medically supervised injection centre would not only save lives, it would:
- Reduce the amount of needles and syringes being left on the streets making the community safer
- Reduce the number of ambulance call-outs to overdoses allowing them to attend other emergency situations
- Reduce the number of incidents where members of the community are exposed to traumatic scenes of overdosing and people using drugs
- Refer highly vulnerable people to various health and welfare services
In the past 30 years there have been more than 90 medically supervised injecting facilities set up across the globe, operating in 10 different countries – all of which are preventing deaths and creating pathways to treatment every day.
We also know that take-home naloxone will also help to save lives and an urgent scaling up of these programs is needed.