- July 6, 2018
- Posted by: Chris McDonnell
- Category: ENEWS
Up to three overdoses a day at the new Richmond injecting room
But some drug users are continuing to shoot up in public despite the newly opened centre.
Numerous men and women were seen injecting in laneways, parks and front yards only a few hundred metres away from it, the Herald Sun can confirm.
And police were on Thursday investigating the assault of a woman on Lennox St, outside the centre.
The centre’s medical director, Dr Nico Clark, said time was needed for people to become “more familiar with” the injecting room.
The injecting room opened at the North Richmond Community Health centre on Saturday.
“We have had between one and three overdoses every day,” Dr Clark told ABC Radio this morning.
“Some of those, had they occurred on the street and nobody had seen them, they most likely would have been fatal,” he said.
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Dr Clark and the state government say it has been a “very positive” start, with about 400 people using the centre instead of injecting on the streets of North Richmond.
Several drug users have been turned away from the facility because they were under 18, pregnant, wanted to help inject someone else, or intended to drive afterwards.
Just two per cent of visitors have taken ice, with 95 per cent injecting heroin and three per cent using other illicit substances.
But multiple drug users told the Herald Sun they had no interest in visiting the centre.
One man seen injecting in the car park of the housing estate, within view of the centre, said he “didn’t know anything about” the injecting room.
“No, I’m not doing that … I’m not using it,” he said.
“I don’t know anything about it and neither does anyone I know,” he said.
Another had used the room once, but would not do so with his partner because he wasn’t allowed to inject for her.
“It’s a problem when I’m with my missus … we just go do it elsewhere. I think a lot of people will have the same problem … they won’t like that.”
The Coalition has questioned the “very large claims” being made by the government about the facility’s operations so far.
Shadow Attorney-General said John Pesutto said it had “put the community at risk” as drug use “continues unabated” on the streets of North Richmond.
“We don’t take at face value anything the government or the operator is saying,” Mr Pesutto said.
Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said the government was “more than pleased with these very early indications of success”.
“What we were doing previously was not working,” he said.
Mr Foley said lives had been saved by doctors who helped those who had overdosed inside.
He urged the local community to be patient as drug users became more comfortable using the facility, and called on those opposed to it to “respect the purpose of what the facility is about”.
“People are entitled to privacy when they’re seeking assistance,” Mr Foley said.
A local resident who lives in the Elizabeth St housing estate said she saw a group shooting up in the car park over the weekend.
“I asked them why they weren’t using the room and they said ‘F— that, no way we’re going in there’,” said Sonia, who did not wish to give her surname.
“I see them pick up their needles from the needle exchange and run to the car park to shoot up,” she said.
But Dr Clark said he had been pleased with the response so far.
“Since Saturday, our staff have been busy seeing people who would have otherwise injected in public, and linking them in with other health and social services,” he said.
Earlier, Dr Clark would not say how many people had used the room so far, but he expected numbers to increase as people became more familiar with it.
He said a quarter of visitors so far had asked for drug treatment help.
Outreach workers have been on the streets of North Richmond to encourage users to visit the facility instead of shooting up in public.
Dr Clark said there had not been any behavioural problems so far, and that most users were “very happy” to have a safe space to inject.
Mr Pesutto called for “truly independent and rigorous analysis” of the injecting room’s operation, saying he had concerns drug users were also still injecting at other locations.
A mother of two told the Herald Sun she was “too scared to leave home” after being assaulted by two men on Thursday.
She said she had stopped to talk to a friend while walking her dogs about 10.30am when the men “came out of nowhere”.
“They got in my face and called me a b—h and shoved me,” she said.
She said security guards who saw the assault did not intervene, and the men fled before police arrived.
“This is exactly why we didn’t want it (the injecting room) in a residential area,” she said. “I don’t feel safe any more.”
Investigators were told the woman was taking photographs when accosted.
Victoria Police said it “respected the intent of the new facility to reduce the harm caused by drug use and addiction, and will work closely with the centre to ensure community safety is not compromised.”
After reports of an assault outside, Mr Foley said Victoria Police had not received an official complaint, but encouraged anyone to come forward if they wanted to make a complaint.
The state Opposition’s spokeswoman on mental health, Emma Kealy, said: “(Premier) Daniel Andrews will have to own total responsibility for any schoolchild, parent, teacher or resident injured or worse by a violent and erratic user high on ice.
“It’s just days in and we’re hearing reports of violence.
“You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out that putting violent ice addicts 40m from a primary school a very bad idea,” she said.
Richmond West Primary pupils are currently on holiday.
The Herald Sun understands the school is reviewing its security, and has indicated work would be done to upgrade the car park, which is adjacent to the front door of the injecting room.
The centre is initially expected to open only from 9am to 5pm. Staff expect up to 300 people to visit once word of it has spread.
Link to story: https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/richmond-drug-users-continue-to-inject-on-the-street-despite-safe-injecting-room-opening/news-story/c323d1bd77cbe6ebcbdedfdd7015918c?login=1