Photos courtesy of the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre.
The Centre for Research Excellence into Injecting Drug Use, based at Burnet Institute, last year approved funding for further research to be conducted in 2012 into the feasibility and need for a supervised injecting facility in North Richmond.
This research will be conducted in consultation with the Yarra Drug and Health Forum (YDHF), who commissioned Burnet’s first feasibility study. Greg Denham, the Executive Officer for YDHF, says that from his experience working in the North Richmond area, most of the community supports the introduction of an injecting facility.
“I have spoken to numerous people living and working in the North Richmond area and have not met one person opposed to the idea.
“The majority of people in the community want to try something that reduces the visible impact of injecting drug use, and I believe that the evidence in Sydney shows that an injecting facility will help.
“We anticipate that such a facility will reduce visible public injecting and ‘nuisance’ type behaviour and improve significantly the public amenity. No one wants to see people shooting up and needles and syringes left in parks and streets,” he said.
The project will take up to four months with researchers collecting and analysing data from organisations such as ambulance services, primary health care facilities, local government and contractors and drug and alcohol treatment agencies.
Further data will be collected through observation of drug use, injecting and disposal practices in the area and there will be a review of the existing public health responses to public injecting. If the data supports the introduction of a supervised injecting facility, a model will be developed as part of the project.
The head of Burnet Institute’s Alcohol and Other Drugs group Professor Paul Dietze says there is clear evidence worldwide that safe injecting facilities are effective in reducing drug related harms. What we now need to ascertain is the benefit (or otherwise) in locating a facility in North Richmond and determine how to successfully implement the program in the community.
“It might not be the case that a supervised injecting facility is required, but we do know these facilities are valuable in high drug use areas. We just need to find out the needs of the various people involved, the people using drugs, retailers, police and the wider community in the area so clear recommendations can be made to council or State Government to make a response,” said Professor Dietze.
“If this needs analysis recommends that a supervised injecting facility is the way forward, we then need to determine what that facility might look like, how it will operate.
“Research indicates that, overall, the community is supportive of harm reduction interventions of this sort,” he added.
Harm reduction is based on a hierarchy of needs that equally well supports efforts towards abstinence alongside other public health goals. But for those who continue to use drugs, for whatever reason, we need to offer comprehensive harm reduction services to keep them healthy and protect society from drug-related harm.
For supervised injecting facilities to function effectively there needs to be community and political support, engagement and collaboration with healthcare services and other agencies. The rooms need to be in places where drug users congregate and may be integrated into existing services, such as needle and syringe programs, or even as mobile units.
And supervised injecting rooms must be adequately funded, but not at the expense of other vital harm reduction services.