Melbourne’s first safe injecting room, clean, sterile and ‘will save lives’
Up to 300 people a day are expected to use Victoria’s first medically supervised drug injecting room when it opens in the coming days.
The Victorian Government committed to a two-year trial at the North Richmond Community Health Centre, after three separate coroners called for a supervised space.
Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said it would save lives.
“I look forward to speaking to less families who have been subject to the trauma and grief of losing loved ones,” he said.
The centre is made up of different rooms where users are assessed, an injecting space, and treatment and recovery rooms.
Up to 11 people can use the rooms at once, and based on the rates of use through the centre’s existing needle exchange it is estimated up to 300 people may visit throughout the day.
Medical director Nico Clark said most people would spend 10-15 minutes in the injecting room before moving into the recovery area.
“They will prepare to inject themselves in the cubicle and then dispose of the equipment themselves in the space provided here,” he said.
The centre has the feel of a modern medical clinic — clean and sterile.
In the event of an overdose, there’s a treatment room nearby.
There will be a minimum of a nurse and a harm reduction practitioner— someone trained in working with drug and alcohol clients— in each room, with another of each roaming as needed, and a medical supervisor overseeing the centre.
Two security guards will also be on site at all times the centre is operating.
Dr Clark said opening hours would be timed around the peak periods for the needle exchange and peak times for overdoses.
The injecting room has become a heated political issue, with the State Opposition announcing it would axe the trial if it wins government in November.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy objected to the inclusion of ice and methamphetamines in the trial and its proximity to a primary school.
“Daniel Andrews and Labor said there would be no safe injecting room, there was,” he said.
“They said there would be no ice or methamphetamines, there was.
“I think the Government has totally and utterly compromised that facility by including ice.”
Leaflets distributed in marginal seats by the Coalition have suggested safe injecting rooms would be expanded to other suburbs.
Mr Foley said the legislation specifically limited the trial to the one site at the one location.
“To somehow suggest that this is going to lead to a law-and-order crisis is shameful scaremongering and people should hang their head in shame if they are seeking to make cheap political points,” he said
Dr Clark said the there would not be extensive amphetamine use at the centre, estimating it would be less than 10 per cent.
“If somebody takes a stimulant like methamphetamine the environment really makes an impact on how that affects them,” he said.
“The peak time of those effects are the first minutes, the first half an hour … so that’s really the time when there’s the most opportunity to affect the impact of that substance.
“If people are calm when they leave here the likelihood is they’ll be calm out in the community.”
Ambulance Victoria also appeared to back the use of methamphetamine in the injecting room.
The director of emergency operations, Mick Stephenson, said he believed it would be safer for the community and paramedics.
“There’s a lot of science to suggest that injecting amphetamine in a quiet environment with as little stimuli as possible makes that patient much more settled and much more compliant,” he said.
“So we would suggest that injecting amphetamine here would be much safer than on the street and people are much less likely to be agitated.”