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A sad day

It is a very sad day today for the movement of individuals, families, and services advocating for a progressive approach to drug law reform in Australia.

The Allan government has announced that there will be no second injecting site in Melbourne’s CBD or anywhere else in Victoria, contrary to the advice of Ken Lay's report. Some of the report's recommendations have been followed by the government, but the key recommendation is being ignored: a second supervised injecting site in the CBD.

The CBD will still have hundreds of “injecting rooms”, injecting laneways, injecting streets, and injecting parks. But there won’t be one injecting room with four walls and a ceiling, staffed by doctors and nurses. The North Richmond Medically Supervised Injecting Room provides numerous health services to assist people with drug addiction and support them in breaking that cycle in a non-judgmental and welcoming environment. Unfortunately, that opportunity has been lost in the CBD.

The government is promoting the design of a wrap-around service for people who use drugs in the city, but this service will not be able to supervise the potentially fatal act of injecting itself. While they may offer needle and syringe programs and various harm minimisation advice, at the critical moment where a person is most likely to risk their life, they will have to leave the building and return to the streets of Melbourne’s CBD. Who is this good for? Is it beneficial for those individuals, the CBD residents, or the shop owners? Is it beneficial to the Government?

The government claims there was not sufficient community support for this initiative, but without considerable political will, life-saving reforms cannot be achieved. Have they pushed hard enough? Have they taken a moral stance? If the lack of community support is the key factor, will the government consider outer-urban and regional centres?

Ken Lay's report contains many great recommendations across its 100+ pages, many of which are in the government’s Action Plan. We fully endorse all of those inclusions: a hydromorphone trial, more support for pharmacotherapy etc. Financial support for services providing pharmacotherapy, a well-known life-saving treatment that minimises harm, is particularly essential. We support all the initiatives in the action plan, and will do our bit to assist successful implementation.

But we are devastated to see that critical key initiative is missing.

Patrick Lawrence
Chief Executive Officer