Image: Patrick Down

The Coroner’s case for safe injecting Health and Wellbeing

The Coroner’s case for safe injecting

The announcement of a trial safe injecting facility in North Richmond is the result of a long campaign by overdose victims’ families, health professionals, community legal centers and social workers.

Perhaps the tipping point in public sentiment was the death of 34 year old mother of two “Ms A” who died after a drug overdose on 30 May 2015.

In her report, Coroner Jacqui Hawkins recommended the Victorian Government trial a safe injecting facility. In forming this view Ms Hawkins had toured the streets of North Richmond and spoken with health workers on the frontline of Victoria’s drug crisis.

Today, we republish part of her report:

I attended North Richmond Community Health to see their service in operation. Staff took me on a guided walk around the North Richmond area on both sides of Victoria Street, where I witnessed injecting drug use and its aftermath.

Personally, I found the experience to be very confronting, and I understand why shock and disengagement are instinctive reactions of many people in the community when they first encounter public injecting related activity.

With the assistance of North Richmond Community Health staff, as well as other organisations and individuals, I developed an appreciation that a whole range of complex issues underpin what I witnessed.

My experience at North Richmond Community Health had a profound influence on my consideration of what could be done to prevent death and reduced heroin-related harms in the City of Yarra.

There are people addicted to heroin in our community, who are compelled to illegally obtain and use the drug. Heroin is blatantly sold and used on the streets of North Richmond daily.

The fact that 70,000 needles per month are distributed to drug users in the North Richmond area by North Richmond Community Health, reflects this uncomfortable truth.

This investigation has highlighted that heroin addiction is a public health issue. Heroin users face a daily battle against their compulsion to use and are at risk of death.

They include some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged people in our society, who may suffer from physical and mental ill health, unemployment and homelessness, and come into contact with the criminal justice system as a result of their addition.

When we accept that addiction is a health issue, we are able to consider more clearly what can and must be done to support heroin users and reduce their risk of death.

You can read the full Coroner’s report here.

This is Aaron. His mum Cherie says he would still be alive today if he had access to a supervised injecting room. And I believe her.

— Daniel Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) October 30, 2017