UnitingCare drug and alcohol abuse healthcare agency ReGen has urged the Andrews Government to follow the recommendations of the state coroner and immediately establish a safe injecting centre in North Richmond to prevent heroin overdose deaths.
On Tuesday Victorian Coroner Jacqui Hawkins recommended that Mental Health Minister Martin Foley take the necessary steps to establish a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) in North Richmond.
ReGen CEO Laurence Alvis welcomed the coroner’s recommendations.
“It’s time for the Andrews Government to step up and recognise the clear and abundant need for a MSIC in North Richmond,” he said.
“A MSIC will not resolve all issues linked to injecting drug use in Melbourne, but it will go a long way to saving lives, supporting access to treatment services, reducing risk to the wider community from public injecting and ease the burden on emergency services.
“Local residents and traders, alcohol and other drug services, researchers, doctors, pharmacists, paramedics and legal experts are all clear in their support for a trial MSIC.”
Coroner Hawkins conducted an inquest into the death of Ms A, a 34-year-old who overdosed from heroin in North Richmond on 30 May last year.
The inquest found there were 172 heroin overdose deaths in Victoria last year, with 19 of those occurring in the North Richmond area.
Coroner Hawkins stated that establishing a MSIC in North Richmond is essential to reduce the risk of overdose death.
On Wednesday Sex Party MP Fiona Patten will introduce a Bill to state parliament to set up a trial MSIC and has called for a conscience vote that is not bound by party lines.
A spokeswoman for Mr Foley told The Age that the government had no plans to set up a safe injecting room but would carefully consider the coroner’s recommendations.
The state opposition has indicated it would not support a safe injection centre.
Mr Alvis said that the effectiveness of safe injecting centres in saving lives is well-established both in Australia, where a MSIC has been operating successfully in Sydney’s Kings Cross since 2001, and overseas.
“In considering how to respond to Coroner Hawkins’ recommendations, all members of the Victorian Parliament need to consider what price they put on the lives of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our communities,” Mr Alvis said.
“Without genuine political leadership, and policy change, the death toll is only going to increase.”