A mainstream media pundit has attacked Melbourne’s supervised injecting facility and plans for a second… but a leading pharmacist says help is needed where the problems are
Radio broadcaster Steve Price has slammed the Richmond centre in his new column in the Herald Sun, publishing a picture he took of an anonymous person in public near the facility.
“Not 50 metres from the injecting room I took the picture you see here,” Mr Price wrote. “Slumped in the gutter a needle sticking out of his or her arm — I couldn’t tell from a distance — was a drug user injecting in broad daylight.
“To put a heroin honey-pot — and that’s what it is — next to a primary school was lunacy and to establish it in the backstreets of suburban Richmond a huge mistake.
“Demand and supply is pretty simple. If you give the users a reason to go to an area — the drug injecting room — the providers, the scumbag dealers, will follow.”
He attacked Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp and council over the facility and over the upcoming decision whether to open a second supervised facility in the CBD, saying that a location such as South Yarra or “even Little Collins Street near the Town Hall” would never be considered.
He said that the suggestion a second Melbourne facility is needed “just doesn’t stack up”.
The proposed location, in Victoria Street near an existing health facility, government-subsidised accommodation and student accommodation, is not appropriate, he said.
“As late as last month on their own website Vic Health were still arguing this is the best place to attract heroin users and their dealers, presumably so they don’t have to travel all the way to Lennox Street in Richmond,” he wrote. “Richmond has been a horrible mistake don’t let us repeat it.”
Angelo Pricolo, an addiction specialist pharmacist whose pharmacy in Richmond, explained that location is indeed a key factor in “an injecting room or consumption room”.
“When a facility was set up in 2000 at Kings Cross [Sydney] it was to save lives, protect the local community and stop the incessant ambulance sirens ever present at the Cross,” he said.
“Had the room been set up at Rose Bay or Double Bay it probably wouldn’t have helped the problem at the Cross. It needs to be located where the injecting drug hot spot is.
“The Victorian state government’s plan to set up a second room in the Melbourne CBD is in response to the overall positive experience of the first one in Richmond and the need in the CBD.
“Not acknowledging the need in the CBD is burying one’s head in the sand, and that leaves the rest of you exposed.
“How we treat the most vulnerable in our community is a measure of its people. Ultimately we will all benefit from helping people who have fallen on hard times.
“The very way we improve life for the community and for the ‘drug user slumped in the gutter’ is by giving them access to a treatment facility like a safe injecting room, not by shutting them down.”