Interview

North Richmond safe injecting room – Its progress so far


Amanda Lyons


19/07/2018 1:33:30 PM

Medical Director of North Richmond’s safe injecting room, Dr Nico Clark, speaks with newsGP about the progress of the facility and its benefits for injecting drug users and the surrounding community.

Dr Nico Clark, Medical Director of the North Richmond safe injecting room, is encouraged by the outcomes of the trial to date. (image: Tracey Nearmy)
Dr Nico Clark, Medical Director of the North Richmond safe injecting room, is encouraged by the outcomes of the trial to date. (image: Tracey Nearmy)

The medically supervised safe injecting facility currently trialling in North Richmond has had a long and controversial road to its opening – and may still face further hurdles in future, as the Victorian State Opposition has stated it may shut the trial down if they are elected to lead the government in the upcoming election.
 
However, the injecting room’s supporters – which includes the RACGP – believe the facility will help to save lives and protect its surrounding community from the accompanying risks of injecting drug use, such as outdoor overdoses and syringes left in the streets.
 
newsGP spoke with the Medical Director of the North Richmond safe injecting room about the progress and the outcomes of the trial so far.
 
How has the injecting room trial been progressing? Are you pleased with the outcomes so far?
 
In our first week, we had more than 400 visits from clients. Each day, our staff have responded to overdoses, many of which would have been fatal without intervention.
 
Importantly, many of our clients have already expressed an interest in accessing drug treatment, assistance managing their hepatitis, or other health services. One client experienced a quite serious overdose in the service, and when he was revived by staff, was quite horrified and immediately arranged to see one of the GPs at North Richmond Community Health about methadone treatment.
 
Although it will take some time to measure the full impact of the service, we are very encouraged by the outcomes so far.
 
What kind of feedback has the trial received from users and members of the community?
 
Feedback from the clients has been overwhelmingly positive. Many have expressed their gratitude for the service, and for our staff. Some have been struck that someone has thought to build a service for their needs, and others comment how rare it is that people are nice to them.  
 
Most of the feedback we have gotten from the local community has also been positive. We have been contacted by many community members, expressing their support for the service. Some have indicated that they are seeing less syringes on the street and that the sound of ambulance sirens is less frequent.
 
When is the safe injecting facility proper due to open?
 
We are currently operating a transitional service in a refurbished section of the existing North Richmond Community Health building. We expect the purpose-built facility to be completed in mid-2019.
 
Do you think the implementation of a safe injecting facility will be a positive development for Richmond?
 
Evidence from the Sydney injecting room and international facilities suggests that the service will have a positive impact on local amenity.
 
What would you say to those who believe the injecting room will encourage more crime and drug use in the area?
 
There is no evidence to suggest that supervised injecting rooms encourage crime and drug use in their local area.
 
Most people in the [North Richmond] area agree that the issue of injecting drug use affects everyone in the local community and that something needs to change. This trial is an opportunity to reduce some of the drug-related harm in Richmond and to promote the health and wellbeing of the entire community.



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