See the person behind the drug


Twenty years ago I would have opposed safe injecting rooms. My view was drugs are bad and you can’t serve any good purpose by allowing people to shoot-up legally.

Then I started talking with a GP friend at church about her work with those living with an addiction. She challenged my thinking and reasoning.

She challenged me to be more person focussed and less drug and crime focussed.

She showed me that the stereotype of “drug addict” I had was far from the reality, and people medicate pain for many reasons.

She challenged me to adopt a higher level of compassion for the individuals and their families.

Over the years I’ve followed the trial and then approval of the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) which Uniting operates in Sydney.

The level of police and government support for the Centre is because of the tremendous results.

Lives are saved and danger on the streets is reduced. This is contained in the data but for the mums and dads whose daughter or son is alive today because of the availability of this Centre it’s very personal.

There has never been anyone die of a drug overdose in any supervised injecting centre anywhere in the world.

Since 2001 at Uniting MSIC there have been one million supervised injections and the Centre staff have had to intervene 6,000 times.

Not all of these people would have died, but many may have if not for this service.

At MSIC they don’t just supervise they see the person behind the drug, they seek to support the whole person in all their needs and they often refer clients to a wide variety of services including treatment.

Now I’m the President of the Uniting Church in Australia and I’m proud of the critically important service the MSIC provides.

I honour the dedication of Dr Marianne Jauncey and her team. I would personally support an MSIC in each Australian jurisdiction.

We have to be tough on crime and those who peddle misery for profit but we need a far greater compassion for those who have an addiction and for their families.

I’m sad the Andrews Government in Victoria has determined not to go ahead with the trial of a safe injecting room.

I do hope that the facts from the MSIC operations over many years and the families who are speaking out will cause the Victorian Government to reconsider its decision.

The Uniting Church in Australia only has a policy on safe injecting rooms in our NSW-ACT Synod.

My hope is that an informed and enlightened Church will put the lives of vulnerable individuals and their families first.

This piece was originally published on the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly website.

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