Trial saves 21 lives

A leading pharmacist and expert in addiction medicine has welcomed the planned extension of Victoria’s supervised injecting program

The Victorian Government has accepted all recommendations of the independent review of Victoria’s first Medically Supervised Injecting Room, which has found the trial is saving lives and changing lives for people struggling with drug addiction.

After 18 months of work, the final report from the independent review panel chaired by Professor Margaret Hamilton found the MSIR in North Richmond saw more than119,000 visits and saved at least 21 lives.

The facility has safely managed 3,200 overdoses – taking pressure off emergency departments and reducing ambulance call outs, says the Government – and has led to a decrease in reports of public injecting in the North Richmond area.

Staff have also provided more than 13,000 health and social support interventions for issues like mental health, housing and family violence – helping those suffering with addiction recover and rebuild their lives.

As a result of the findings, the panel’s expert advice has recommended the MSIR trial be extended for three years.

Local addiction medicine pharmacist Angelo Pricolo told the AJP that he was “very happy to hear that a three year extension has been adopted”.

He said he was “also extremely encouraged to hear of plans for a second facility in Melbourne and the acknowledgement that even more could be on the horizon”.

“The room provides a unique opportunity to help provide safety and care to vulnerable people that may otherwise slip through the cracks,” he said.

“Neglecting this group is a costly exercise in human rights and ultimately puts the health system and its resources under pressure. 

“It’s not a competition but Sydney has just the one room after 20 years so by this standard we have been quick adopters.”

The report also found North Richmond facility is the busiest supervised injecting room in Australia, with 4,350 clients registering since it opened.

To take pressure off the existing facility, and further reduce drug-related harm in the community, the independent review panel has recommended a second MSIR site be established in the City of Melbourne, where there were 51 heroin-related deaths between January 2015 and September 2019.

The Department of Health and Human Services has recommended a preferred site for the second service at cohealth Central Melbourne on Victoria Street, between Swanston and Elizabeth Street.

The state Government says that as one of the largest community health services in Victoria, cohealth’s diverse range of established health and social services mean it is well-placed to be a site for a second MSIR facility.

The Government plans to work with the community, Victoria Police, the City of Melbourne, local health and community services and other authorities to confirm that the preferred site is the most appropriate location by the end of the year. Legislation will also need to pass the Parliament to establish the second site.

Premier Daniel Andrews said that “We’ve listened to the medical experts when responding to coronavirus and we’ll continuing listening to them when it comes to saving lives and reducing harm from drug addiction”.

“When we talk about these numbers, we should never lose sight of what it is we’re really counting: lives saved. And this review has shown the safe injecting room is doing what it is designed to do – saving lives and changing lives.”

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