Safe injecting room back on the agenda

Another review of the controversial North Richmond Medically Safe Injecting Room has finsihed and the community has come together to discuss its findings. 

Peter Wearne, chairperson of the Yarra Drug and Health Forum introduces panellists Dr Belinda Bravo, Sione Crawford, Saade Melki and Sam Biondo at the forum. Photo: Jemima Searle

The Ryan Review is the second of the MSIR since its opening on a trial basis in 2018.  

The Yarra Drug and Health Forum hosted an event last week and invited an independent panel of four to talk with the community. 

Sione Crawford, CEO of Harm Reduction Victoria, noted at the forum that “people’s voices have been silenced by the lack of data and information in this report. I know that many, many people were interviewed, and it does not come through in this very well.”

He also expressed his concern about what he sees as the high expectations placed on the injecting room. 

“MSIR has frankly been dropped into an AOD and harm reduction system that is stretched and under resourced, and any expectation that it was going to solve all those problems, even just in North Richmond was unrealistic,” he said. 

Of the 10 recommendations made to parliament in the review, all but one was accepted. People who can’t inject themselves, women who are pregnant, those under the age of 18 and those with justice orders will continue to be unable to access the facility. 

Sam Biondo, CEO of the Victorian Alcohol And Drug Association, said “it would appear that some populations aren’t considered worthy users”. 

Nikki, a midwife at a major tertiary hospital and member of the community who attended the forum, also spoke on this issue. 

“It saddens me to hear that pregnant women again are excluded from this. I see a lot of women in hospital who can’t access the service and I don’t have any answers for them,” she said. 

Dr Belinda Bravo, acting director for the Medically Safe Injecting Room in the Department of Health summarised the findings. 

“The review does a great job of really teasing out what the important aspects of the trial have been,” she said. “That there has been 63 deaths that have been prevented and more than 6000 overdose events managed with zero fatalities. It has found that there’s been an important role in reducing ambulance callouts for overdoses in the vicinity and fewer hospital admissions. A reduction in blood-borne illnesses such as hep-C and also an effectiveness in providing access to critical health, social and wellbeing support services.” 

Debate has started this week in the upper house of parliament to talk about the legislation for the MSIR going forward. 


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