Injecting room supporters urge expansion as street drug use grows

Amanda Lyons

11/04/2019 4:09:22 PM

The Melbourne facility has been called ‘a victim of its own success’.

North Richmond safe injecting room.
While the North Richmond safe injecting room initially seemed to reduce drug use in the street, numbers have been rising again.

A meeting held in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Richmond earlier this week saw local residents express concerns about the impact they believe the safe-injecting room has had on their community.
Local retailer advocate Herschel Landes tweeted that people ‘used words like ghetto, lawless, dereliction, no-go zone, shops closing, despair’ as they described what was happening to their neighbourhood due to a ‘honey pot’ effect in which the facility has attracted a greater number of drug users to the area.
Local councillor Stephen Jolly agreed that the number of drug users congregating in Richmond has increased. He observed that while the facility is having some positive effect, only half of users are choosing to use it.
‘It’s saved 140 lives so obviously that’s good, that has to be acknowledged,’ Councillor Jolly told 3AW. ‘But it’s brought in a lot of people to the area using drugs more than normal.
‘There are roughly 200 using the facility, another 200 shooting up on the street, buying drugs and sometimes involved in low-level crime to finance their habits.’
Councillor Jolly remains supportive of the facility, and believes the majority of residents feel the same way; however, its ensuing problems – such as residents and their children reporting people injecting into each other’s necks on the street, or seeing people injecting while riding on the tram – urgently need to be addressed with further solutions such as street outreach programs.
‘No one should have to live like this – not the locals, not the users,’ he said.

Dr Nico Clark, Medical Director of the safe-injecting room, was also present at the meeting. He told newsGP that while there is no hard data to support the ‘honey pot’ claims, he does not discount the experiences of Richmond residents and can understand their frustration.
‘[The drug use] is a long-standing issue and I think there was an expectation that it was going to be fixed [by the injecting room], and now that it hasn’t been for some people, they’re saying “This isn’t getting better for me, can my concerns be heard as well?”,’ he said.
‘I certainly think we should take the concerns of residents in Richmond seriously, and look at the patterns of what is causing them distress and think of whether there are additional things we need to do to work on that.’

Dr Clark noted that, despite residents’ frustration with drug use in Richmond’s streets, not many advocated closing the injecting room as a real solution.
‘To me, that shows it’s more symbolic of their frustrations of living in an area of high drug use, rather than thinking closing the room would actually solve any problems,’ he said.
‘In fact, there were some people saying we need to build more rooms.’

One of those people was Judy Ryan, a spokesperson for the Victoria St Drug Solutions residents’ group, who suggested expanding the facility’s opening hours and opening further injecting rooms as a possible solution.
‘The safe-injection facility has been a victim of its own success,’ Ms Ryan said.
‘This shows the need for more centres to be established in other locations. At the moment, Richmond is taking one for the whole team.’
Dr Nico Clark, Medical Director of the North Richmond safe-injecting room, understands the frustrations of local residents.

Victorian MP Fiona Patten, who was not present at the meeting but is supportive of the safe-injecting facility, agrees that it has not been as successful as intended, but believes this shows it needs additional funding to expand its operations.
‘It should certainly be open until nine or 10 o’clock at night,’ Minister Patten said.
‘We’re seeing that’s where the most public drug use is occurring in North Richmond and it’s when most people are out and about, not during working hours.’
While there are currently no plans to extend the facility’s hours, Dr Clark explained that it will, by the middle of this year, double its capacity of the number of people who can use the room to inject, and quadruple its ability to provide additional healthcare.
He also highlighted that the injecting room already engages in outreach work and has a partnership with local police to help funnel drug users into the injecting room rather than into the cells.
The additional healthcare provided at the facility has assisted some users to access treatment for addiction.
‘One of our GPs estimated that they’d commenced about 100 people in methadone or buprenorphine treatment since we’ve started, many of whom have gone on to get jobs,’ Dr Clark said.
Dr Clark believes that the safe-injecting facility is ultimately helping rather than harming the community, but also that it is likely only part of a possible suite of solutions.
‘While nobody is saying we’re going to stop all drug use in Richmond, there are a whole bunch of solutions that could improve the lives of people with drug problems and improve the amenities for the residents in Richmond,’ he said.
‘That doesn’t mean the room itself is failing, it just means we might need some additional solutions as well.’

Illicit drugs North Richmond safe injecting room Victoria

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Kay Armstrong   13/04/2019 8:35:57 AM

Historically Richmond was only one of 2 places where syringes where availible in Melbourne (known off widely)..
The Richmond surgical suppliers catering for users from all over Melbourne (Glenluon rd chemist Caulfeild being the other)
We are talking about the 80s at least and the days when syringe availibility was scarce...
Hep C was thought to be Hep B
Harm miniumisation was a world away to partakers reality..
Just admitting you partook could result in one being removed from hospital emergency rooms by security (no methadone proggrammes)and the majority of street commerce in drugs was restricted to St kilda.
Until a zero tolerance blitz in St kilda resulted in a breaking the egg affect..leaking and running over melbourne it spread.
A unforseen consequence of short sighted and emotive knee jerk reactions
So many lives lost and families shattered,left with nought comfort but shame!
Love to see a book covering this change
Todays problem be tommorrows solution..Richmond has heart&hope TY

Maria Ann Kolovrat   30/06/2019 5:00:46 AM

The injecting room are heaven sent.
But to lay the costs of this and everything else upon rate payers is hell.
Even it out and lift off the
burden of cost.
epetition 72 current winnings, scrap council rates.