After all the fracas, the Medically Supervised Injecting Room is hitting all KPIs, as NSW calls for more rooms in needy areas, writes Angelo Pricolo

On Saturday 30 June 2018, as one financial year closed, one very important door opened. The first Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR) in Victoria started operation after decades of debate, multiple coroner recommendations and many lives lost.

The Medical Director, Dr Nico Clarke, has outlined the first few weeks of MSIR operation, noting that client feedback had been overwhelmingly positive. In the first week of operation the MSIR saw more than 400 client visits and numbers have been growing steadily.

Dr Clarke explains, “Each day the service has safely managed overdoses, including some serious overdoses that would likely have been fatal if the injection had not been supervised.”

The MSIR is building referral pathways with gateway service providers. Local pharmacist Perry Moshidis, who is also a member of the Advisory Group, says, “It was always very important to me as a pharmacist that the MSIR could build bridges to the services community pharmacy provide.

“Being a member of the committee means I can inform the MSIR of the important role pharmacy can play with the provision of pharmacotherapy for opioid dependence, counseling our patients and educating the public.

“We are an underutilised and often undervalued resource but building a relationship with the MSIR is beneficial for all parties.”

At times all injecting booths have been full, with people waiting in the entry zone. Some people have been unable to use the service because they were either under 18 years of age, pregnant or with bail or parole conditions that prohibit drug use.

Already the North Richmond Community Health (NRCH) precinct, where the MSIR is located, has had less ‘code blue’ response call outs for public injecting overdoses. There have also been anecdotal reports of less inappropriately discarded syringes in the community and less ambulance sirens.

There have been no instances of aggression related to ice use in the MSIR, similar to the experience at the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) where ice-related aggression is very rare. Sydney MSIC staff members have been helpful in advising and training MSIR staff.

On 6 May 2001 the MSIC opened at Kings Cross in Sydney and in 2016 it posted its millionth visit. It would be difficult to estimate just how many lives have been saved, how syringes haven’t littered the streets and how many families have been reunited as a direct consequence of the MSIC.

Let’s hope the MSIR can continue on this path too and provide similar benefits to the Richmond community and the individuals affected.

Angelo Pricolo is an addiction medicine pharmacist and former National Councillor of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.