Mayor calls on State Government to implement Coroners recommendations

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Yarra City Mayor Cr Amanda Stone has urged the State Government to implement the Victorian Coroner’s recommendation for a trial of a supervised injecting facility in North Richmond.

The Coroner’s recommendation follows the fatal heroin overdose of a woman in North Richmond in 2016, and an unprecedented 34 heroin related deaths in the area in the past 12 months.

“Yarra Council has a long-standing position in favour of harm minimisation including a supervised  injecting facility (SIF) trial in north Richmond. We provided this advice to the Coroner last year as part of her investigation.

“Evidence from Australia and overseas shows that SIFs save lives. They are effective in preventing death and injury from overdose and connecting people with health services so they may have the opportunity for rehabilitation.”

The Coroner made three recommendations (amongst a range of others) relating to harm minimisation strategies to prevent overdose deaths.

These include:

  • Take the necessary steps to establish a supervised injecting facility trial in North Richmond;
  • Expand the availability of naloxone to people who are in a position to intervene and reverse opioid drug overdoses in the City of Yarra;
  • Review current Department of Health and Human Services funded services that support the health and wellbeing of injecting drug users in the City of Yarra, and consult with relevant service providers and other stakeholders, to identify opportunities to improve injecting drug users' access to and engagement with these life-saving services.
    Cr Stone said harm minimisation strategies such as a SIF were one part of the solution to the complex health and safety issues associated with drugs in the Victoria Street precinct, a situation which the Coroner herself has acknowledged is underpinned by a complex range of issues

“We need an all-of-government, bipartisan and holistic approach to understanding and then tackling the tragic and complex issues in Victoria Street. This approach requires a major State investment in harm minimization, health and education, urban renewal, community partnerships and law enforcement in the area.

“Addressing the issues on Victoria Street will take a collaborative effort from all levels of government, Victoria Police, health service providers and the community. That’s why we recently launched Reimagining Victoria Street, a major community engagement project, to open a dialogue with our community and stakeholders about the challenges and potential solutions for Victoria Street.

“Already we have received hundreds of contributions from residents, traders and visitors to the area. The stories they are sharing with us, and their ideas for how the situation in Victoria Street could be improved, are invaluable.”

As part of her own research into harm minimisation strategies, Cr Stone will be visiting, at her own expense, the medically supervised injecting facility in Kings Cross in late February. The Kings Cross SIF has been operating for more than 10 years in which time there has been a demonstrable decline in the total number of discarded needles and syringes collected and reduced sightings of public injecting.

A 2011 evaluation of the Sydney SIC found that:

  • More than 4,400 drug overdoses had been successfully managed without a single fatality;
  • The number of publicly discarded needles and syringes in the Kings Cross area had been halved;
  • The number  of ambulance call outs to Kings Cross had decreased by 80 percent,
  • More than 9,500 referrals to health and social welfare services had been generated, and
  • Randomised surveys of local residents and business operators showed strong community support for the SIF and that this had only trended upwards over time.

“We want to see the impact of illicit drug use on the Yarra community significantly reduced, and overdose deaths prevented. We reiterate our position that a SIF would go a long way to achieving our goal, said Cr Stone.


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