Melbourne, VIC, 21st February, 2017 – UnitingCare ReGen today welcomed the release of Victorian Coroner Jacqui Hawkins’ findings on opioid overdose deaths in the Richmond area and her recommendation to Victorian Mental Health Minister Martin Foley to take the necessary steps to establish a trial safe injecting facility in North Richmond.
The Coronial inquest heard there were 172 heroin overdose deaths in Victoria last year, 34 involving people who had purchased heroin in the City of Yarra. Of those deaths, 19 were in the North Richmond area known as the ‘heroin rectangle’. In her report, Coroner Hawkins noted that establishing a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) is essential to address current and future overdose risk in the area:
I am convinced that a safe injecting facility in North Richmond is an essential intervention that could reduce the risk of future heroin overdose deaths.
ReGen CEO Laurence Alvis welcomed the Coroner’s recommendations:
It’s time for the Andrews Government to step up and recognise the clear and abundant need for a MSIC in North Richmond.
With Fiona Patten’s MSIC bill due to be debated this week, now is the time for action to prevent more deaths.
A MSIC will not resolve all issues linked to injecting drug use in Melbourne, but it will go a long way to saving lives, supporting access to treatment services, reducing risk to the wider community from public injecting and ease the burden on emergency services.
Local residents and traders, alcohol and other drug services, researchers, doctors, pharmacists, paramedics and legal experts are all clear in their support for a trial MSIC.
The evidence for the effectiveness of such models is well-established, here and overseas. Around the world countries are in the process of establishing or expanding similar services in response to the growing death toll from opioid overdoses.
In Australia, overdose deaths exceed the road toll, but our political leaders are unable to publicly endorse this tried and tested approach. 172 deaths from heroin in Victoria is a tragedy, but the arrival of powerful synthetic opioids (like fentanyl and carfentanil) to Australian markets heralds an era of increased uncertainty about the contents of illicit opioids and escalating overdose risk.
Without genuine political leadership, and policy change, the death toll is only going to increase in the future.
In considering how the respond to Coroner Hawkins’ recommendations, all members of the Victorian Parliament need to consider what price they put on the lives of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our communities.
How many people need to die before our leaders recognise the need for change?