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Budget news

Another year older and deeper in debt. Well, that’s what the Victorian government is trying to avoid with a number of important spending commitments being postponed, and hopefully not cancelled. The roll out of the Local Mental Health and Wellbeing Centres has been postponed for 12 months; so far they’ve commissioned 15 of the post-royal-commission-promised 50. It’s important that this roll out is recommenced as soon as possible.

There will be no second supervised injecting room in Victoria. This is devastating news, particularly given earlier commitments that ‘we will listen to the experts’. Well, the expert who wrote the report the government commissioned, Ken Lay, said North Richmond Medically Supervised Injecting Room is clinically a runaway success and there is desperate need for one in the CBD.

My observation to media was that there are ‘hundreds of injecting rooms in the CBD, and injecting laneways, and injecting parks. We just want one with four walls, a roof, and medical staff inside.’ Is the goal that people keep injecting on the streets? Is that better for local business owners? Sigh. The campaign will dust itself off, lick its wounds and continue. One big fentanyl crisis (god forbid!!) and the need for this intervention will be in sharp relief.

The Victorian government has committed $7.4 million to getting 1,500 more people on opiate replacement therapies (methadone, buprenorphine and long-acting injectable buprenorphine) which First Step wants to be a part of. Big shake ups in the Department of Health so we’ll nag and see (just like ‘wait and see’, but less patient).

From the Feds we have a ‘new’ announcement about old funding: Medicare Mental Health Centres. In Victoria they’re call Head to Health and they will be rolled into the Local Mental Health and Wellbeing Centres (see above). No new funding. Some money for Hep C treatment which is important and saves lives.

Patrick Lawrence
Chief Executive Officer