Drug abuse experts believe Melbourne needs a mobile, supervised drug injecting van. This is mainly due to the geographical spread of drug abusers in the region.
This focus came after a new report from the Burnet Institute that showed the benefits of such units in Sydney and 76 facilities abroad. The report says that such a mobile unit can be much more cost effective and easily deployed in problem areas like Footscray, St Kilda, Dandenong and Richmond where drug user gather.
The report also pointed out a common complaint registered by the residents in Collingwood and Fitzroy of drug users injecting on their doorstep and called for a system to get them off the streets. The report was commissioned by the Yarra Drug and Health Forum.
Professor Robert Power, from the Burnet Institute, explained that evidence showed injecting facilities improved public amenity by reducing crime, public injecting and discarded needles. These units had also reduced overdoses and high risk behaviors for HIV and hepatitis B and C, he said.
Executive officer Joe Morris explained this saying, People who live on the estates continually say, 'Why doesn't the government provide an area for these people to go and inject?' It doesn't mean they support drug use - in fact, some of them are very conservative in their views about what should happen to drug users - but if it's going to happen and if these people are going to inject, then they want a place for them to go.
He acknowledged the political difficulty this move would pose but hoped that the MPs of major parties will come out, particularly after the election, and stand up for what they believe.
Mr. Morris’s thoughts were reflected in Premier John Brumby’s statement, We looked at this issue in some depth some years ago but I think the evidence now suggests it is not the way to go, and we've got no plans to change our policy.
Mr. Brumby however was unable to provide details on the evidence against supervised injecting rooms said a spokeswoman. A Liberal Party spokesman said the opposition did not support them. But the Greens continue their support for the facilities.
At present Australia's only legal drug injecting room in Sydney's Kings Cross district running successfully on trial basis for the past nine years by Uniting Care is planning on becoming a permanent fixture in the Cross.
Critics had initially claimed that it will attract drug abusers and increase drug taking. But the center’s medical director, Dr Marianne Jauncey, says that has not happened. On the brighter side she said, streets do not have discarded needles lying around and there has been an 80 per cent drop in ambulance call outs showing that the facility is saving people’s lives she said.
She explained the benefits saying, This is someone's son, someone's daughter that would have been injecting in a back lane or shop front or alleyway of Kings Cross that now, because of this service, is able to come to a health centre…[The addicts are] able to meet with counselors and nurses whose job it is to connect with them and help them, treat them in the event of an overdose and do their very best to get them off drugs and reintegrated back into society.
The NSW Government now has commissioned another review of the Kings Cross centre which due in July this year. The trial run of the center will continue till October and decision to make it permanent will be taken before then.
By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
22. June 2010