Independent review launched and CEO stood down amidst allegations of drug trafficking by staff linked to health facility that runs safe injecting room and other drug programs
Five people have been charged as part an ongoing investigation into drug trafficking in Victoria, with two of those linked to the facility that runs the medically supervised safe injecting room in Melbourne.
A 49-year-old Richmond man and a 36-year-old Brunswick West woman who were charged work at a health facility in North Richmond, police confirmed.
“The allegations against staff employed at the North Richmond Health Service are extremely serious,” said the Victorian government in a statement.
“An independent review will immediately be undertaken to find out whether North Richmond Community Health failed to prevent alleged criminal activity by its staff.”
While this occurs, the board has stood down the North Richmond Community Health CEO, a decision that has the full support of the Victorian Government.
North Richmond Community Health expanded its community support services to trial the supervised injecting facility in June 2018.
However the facility has been criticised in recent months as some residents and MPs called for it to be relocated, saying it was creating a “honey pot” effect in the area.
Fiona Patten MP, leader of the Reason Party, defended the safe injecting room.
“With worldwide opioid use on the rise, Victoria bravely took the step to open the medically supervised injecting centre as part of their response. And it works,” she said in a statement.
“The facts tell the story. Nearly 2,000 drug overdoses have been safely attended to saving countless lives.
“The allegations levelled by police at two workers of associated outreach programs of the centre, only goes to strengthen my case to move some of those services out of the facility,” said Ms Patten.
Ms Patten told ABC Radio Melbourne that “every possible drug and alcohol service for Richmond” is at the centre and that may be part of the problem.
“I think maybe we need to look at relocating some of those services so we don’t have every single person who is recovering, who’s using, all congregating at the same place,” she said.
“Having them all together isn’t productive and simply not manageable or practical moving forward.
“I welcome the independent review by Dr Joanna Flynn and trust that the relocation of other drug and alcohol services out of the centre will be considered.”
She said until then, the centre will “continue to save lives”.
“Now is not the time to do less,” said Ms Patten.