The Australian Christian Lobby has fronted an inquiry in opposition to the proposed injecting room for Richmond, Victoria. The ACL’s submission to the inquiry clearly demonstrates the ineffectiveness of strategies such as injecting rooms in combatting drug abuse.
Sex Party MLC Fiona Patten, who first proposed for the injecting room in Richmond to be built, has looked toward the ‘success’ of the only other injecting facility in Australia, the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) in Sydney. However, leading experts argue that supervised injecting rooms do not truly support drug users, and may in fact lead to higher rates of addiction.
Independent research included in the ACL’s submission directly challenges the governments funding of injecting rooms, such as the one proposed for Richmond. The research into the MSIC found that:
- The overdose rate within the MSIC was 36 times higher than on the streets of Kings Cross. The MSIC’s own report attributes this to clients taking more risks with higher doses of heroin in the injecting room.
- For every user injecting in the ‘safe’ rooms they injected elsewhere a further 34 times, each injection being potentially fatal.
- Only 38% of injections at MSIC in 2006 were heroin injections, with other substances such as ice, cocaine and morphine being used.
- Only 11% of injecting room clients were referred to further treatment such as detox or rehab. Other programs such as needle exchange services provided better opportunities to engage non-judgmentally with drug users.
This report has led the ACL to conclude that funding and construction of an injecting room in Richmond will not result in better support for addicts or their rehabilitation.
Police Minister Lisa Neville and Premier Daniel Andrews agree, having publicly rejected the project. But confusingly, the Andrews government has backed the present inquiry into the proposal for a Richmond injecting room.
In response to an ACL policy questionnaire, Labor said at election time:
We do not support the introduction of supervised injecting rooms.
Harm minimisation and evidence-based responses to drug use; like needle and syringe programs, pharmacotherapies as well as treatment and support services, are our focus.
Despite the Labor Party making an election commitment to reject injecting rooms during the 2014 election, this inquiry has been established and the parliamentary committee has been asked to report by March 2018.
In addition, support of injecting rooms violates Australia’s commitment to the United Nations International Narcotic Control Board (UNINCB), which stated in a 2001 report that:
“. . . the operation of such facilities, where addicts inject themselves with illicit substances, condones Illicit drug use and drug trafficking and runs counter to the provisions of the international drug treaties.” (Para. 559)
ACL Victorian director, Dan Flynn, has urged the Andrews Government to properly resource direct prevention methods and rehabilitation, rather than continuing to encourage addiction:
“Consideration should be given to other approaches like the successful Swedish approach to illicit drugs. The Swedish model makes drug rehabilitation mandatory for those found addicted and strongly polices street selling.”
“We should not be advocating for something that has the potential to ruin people’s lives and families.”
You can read the ACL’s submission to the inquiry here.