Melbourne To Trial Safe Injecting Room Amid “Full-Blown” Heroin Epidemic

Victoria will follow in New South Wales‘ footsteps and trial a safe drug-injecting room in inner Melbourne, amid a growing heroin crisis in the state.

The proposal was approved by Council following a review of a private members bills and considering advice from the police, the coroner, and community stakeholders, said Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley.

“We know that the fast around this are clear,” he said. “The number of Victorians dying from overdoses has doubled since 2012. More Victorians now lose their lives because of drug overdoses than they do on our roads.”

The centre will be at the North Richmond Health Service, ensuring that people who use heroin can use it under supervision but will also receive help in getting themselves out of addiction.

“This is the safety-first approach we need,” said Premier Daniel Andrews on Facebook, describing the current heroin crisis as a “full-blown public health crisis.”

“This is the medical approach – recommended by the Coroner, supported by doctors, needed by users, and pleaded by families. And it’s always those families who are left to pick up the pieces.”

The bill was introduced by Fiona Patten from the Reason Party (formerly the Sex Party), who congratulated Andrews on his “about-face” on the issue.

“My bill was brought about due to the tireless advocacy of grief-stricken families, paramedics, key stakeholders working on the front line, residents, researchers and health professionals across Victoria,” she said.

“The needless deaths in North Richmond this year alone are reason enough for this Government to act and today they finally have.”

The coroner had been calling for a trial of an injection room following the deaths of 34 people from heroin overdoses within a four block area in just on 12-month period.

If legislation is required and passes State Parliament – both of which is looking likely – the injection room will open in North Richmond in March 2018 and run for two years, with an option to extend for another three years.

On Facebook, Andrews also shared the story of a man called Aaron, who died of an accidental heroin overdose after becoming addicted to opioids following a minor surgery.

“It was a little accident at home that started Aaron’s heroin addiction,” he wrote. “His doctors prescribed him with an opioid-based pain medication after some minor surgery. He came home with a whole box of it. And that was it. That’s how easily addiction starts for so many young people. That addiction took hold of Aaron’s life for eight years.”

Andrews said Aaron pulled himself out of addiction and stayed clean for 12 months, working to become a drug and alcohol counsellor and planning to propose to his girlfriend.

“But recovery isn’t a straight line. Aaron relapsed. One day, after hanging out with some friends, his mum said, “He came home…we had a little chat, had a very nice moment together…and we said goodnight.”

“Aaron died that night of an accidental heroin overdose. His best mate followed him soon after.”

“I have no doubt that if he had an option to either risk injecting alone, or being able to do so within a safe environment, he would have chosen the latter,” his mum Cherie said, according to Andrews. “Aaron wanted life. He didn’t want to die.”

You can read Andrews’ full message below: