Council responds to Lay report

Council responds to Lay report
Sean Car

City of Melbourne councillors have unanimously supported the Victorian Government’s Statewide Action Plan to reduce drug harm following the long-awaited release of a report into a proposed CBD safe injecting room.

The Proposed Medically Supervised Injecting Service trial consultation: City of Melbourne report by former Victoria Police Commissioner Ken Lay was completed back in May 2023 but only released by the government on April 23.

The report made nine recommendations, which included establishing a medically supervised injecting service trial in the City of Melbourne, which ultimately wasn’t supported by the government.

Instead, a new $36.4 community health service at the former Yooralla building at 244 Flinders St, which was initially floated to house an injecting room, will be set up to provide wraparound health and social support services and include a Victorian-first hydromorphone treatment trial.

The council formally supported a safe injecting room in the CBD in 2021 following a passionate debate, which saw councillors vote seven to four in favour.

At its May 28 council meeting, councillors this time voted unanimously in favour of moving forward with the government’s new action plan despite the scrapped plans for a CBD injecting room.

In acknowledging its role in the fight against drug harm as being largely centred on advocacy, outreach and coordination, the council says it will continue to monitor drug-related data in its municipality.

It said it could also support the formation of a “Community Advisory Group through our connections and links to community and business” and would continue “to work with cohealth and the Salvation Army to support the delivery of their services.”

In response to Mr Lay’s eighth recommendation to “consider expanding the availability of pharmacotherapy in the City of Melbourne,” the council said would also “identify appropriate locations for the Naloxone vending machines.”

“The report has nine recommendations, not all of which have been accepted by the Victorian Government, but we are looking at ways we can support the drug harm minimisation proposals that they have put forward and do what we can for our municipal community in supporting the minimisation of drug harm and saving lives,” Cr Dr Olivia Ball said on May 28.

“We will also be assisting in advising on the best locations for dispensing machines so that people who need them in an emergency when somebody has overdosed and is it imminent can access that extremely safe lifesaving medication so we can welcome that.”

“Of course, council’s position is in support of supervised injecting as an essential overdose prevention measure, and it’s a great disappointment that this has not occurred despite Ken Lay’s recommendation and the unanimous recommendations of all the sector and experts in this field. But that is what it is. Let us do our utmost.” •

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