The Uniting Church and its community services arm Uniting have welcomed the Victorian state government’s move to set up a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) for a two-year trial period in Melbourne to prevent more deaths from drug overdose.
Victoria’s parliament is expected to quickly pass legislation being introduced by the Andrews Government to establish a MSIC at the North Richmond Community Health Centre as part of a wider package to tackle skyrocketing rates drug abuse and resulting deaths.
Earlier this month the Synod of Victoria and Tasmanian and Uniting VIC.TAS wrote to every Victorian MP urging them to support an MSIC on a trial basis.
Moderator Sharon Hollis, who signed those letters, said the decision to take a harm-reduction and rehabilitation approach to drug abuse was in line with this year’s Synod resolution in favour of trialling a MSIC.
“The Church seeks to stand in solidarity with people who are suffering and seek pathways to healing and new life,” Ms Hollis said.
“We are advocating for a MSIC as part of our commitment to those on the edges of our society and to share in God’s dreaming for all to be able to flourish.”
Uniting VIC.TAS drug rehabilitation services have long called for a MSIC be set up, with the only other one in Australia run by Uniting NSW.ACT in Sydney’s Kings Cross.
“This is a wonderful outcome for all of the community groups, health, welfare, research and legal leaders who have advocated to bring this lifesaving service to Melbourne,” Uniting VIC.TAS CEO Paul Linossier said.
“Like its Sydney equivalent, this centre will save lives. It will support some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our community, improve public health, and reduce risks to individuals and the wider community.”
Uniting NSW.ACT has run an MSIC in Sydney since 2001 and has supervised over a million injections, and treated 7,428 overdoses without a single death. Benefits to the local community have included ambulance callouts being cut by 80 per cent and a dramatic reduction in public drug use.
Peter Worland, Executive Director for Uniting in NSW.ACT said: “We are proud that Uniting took the bold move of opening the Southern Hemisphere’s first Medically Supervised Injecting Centre 16 years ago. There was resistance initially, but independent evaluation continues to show overwhelmingly positive outcomes, for individuals and the community.
“The announcement that another MSIC will open in Melbourne is a powerful example of politicians putting people first, and we congratulate the Victorian government for doing so.”