Injecting room not yet needed: Patten

By David Schout

The level of drug use in the CBD does not require the establishment of a medically-supervised injection room according to Reason Party MP Fiona Patten.

The City of Melbourne is Victoria’s third-highest local government area for drug overdoses per capita.

But Ms Patten said demand at the controversial North Richmond facility, which treated 140 overdoes in its first two months, did not spill into the CBD.

“In my experience I don’t see as much open drug use in the CBD as I do in North Richmond,” she told CBD News.

“The most important thing that research shows us is where it is needed and wanted. North Richmond fills that criteria, the CBD slightly less so.”

Ms Patten, a key figure behind the state’s first safe injecting space, said the North Richmond facility had been “an absolute success” and could increase its capacity “by 30 per cent tomorrow” in response to demand.

Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said the legislation passed in December 2017 was clear that the two-year trial would be located at just one Victorian site.

But Yarra Drug and Health Forum executive officer Greg Denham said the legislation could be amended at any time should the need arise.

“There are over 100 drug consumption rooms (DCR) world-wide, many of which are located in central business areas,” Mr Denham said.

“Several cities, including Copenhagen, have more than one DCR to meet the demand of the local drug market. If the Melbourne CBD is identified as meeting the need for a safe injecting facility then it could co-exist with the North Richmond facility.”

Mr Denham said a safe injecting facility was required when an area was exposed to a significant level of:

Overdoses (both fatal and non-fatal);

Public injecting areas;

Drug affected people in public;

Drug paraphernalia, e.g. needles and syringes discarded in public places; and

Demand for emergency services.

Coroners Court figures show that between 2009-2016, the average number of overdose deaths within the City of Melbourne was 16.4 per year.

This was behind just two municipalities: the City of Port Phillip (19 per year) and City of Yarra (23.7).

On September 19, the Herald Sun detailed heroin use at the Wilson multi-level car park on Little Collins St.

It alleged drug use in the stairwells and in certain car spaces, with disused syringes visible on the ground.

EastEnders community group president Jenny Eltham said she was aware of the issues at the site, but had not personally seen heroin use taking place.

“I have never seen a syringe, let alone had to pick one up and only very, very rarely see a paper wrapping from a syringe,” she said.

A CBD injecting room was almost trialled by the Victorian Government in 2000.

With strong support from the Australian Medical Association, Law Institute of Victoria and other key groups including ambulance workers, then Premier Steve Bracks pushed for the bill to pass through both houses.

“I can’t stand by as Premier an watch this tragic loss of life,” he said in June 2000.

“If it means that we lose some support over it, it is still the right thing to do.”

The Bill failed to gather enough support through the Parliament.

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