Labor ignores coroner’s report amid push for safe injecting room

The Victorian coroner has recommended a safe injecting room in Melbourne.

A push is underway to set up a safe injecting room in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond to reduce the number of fatal overdoses of drug users.

With the state coroner and other medical professionals supporting the push, Sex Party MP Fiona Patten has introduced a private member’s bill to set up a trial safe injecting room, which was debated in state parliament on February 22.

The bill is backed by the Greens but Labor and the Liberals remain opposed. Labor Premier Daniel Andrews has rejected state coroner Jacqui Hawkins’ support for a safe injecting room to help reduce deadly drug overdoses, a call supported by the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA).

The coroner’s recommendations were made as part of an inquiry into the fatal overdose of a 33-year-old woman in North Richmond. The death came amid 34 fatal overdoses in Richmond over the past year.

A supervised injecting facility offers users a place to inject drugs with sterile equipment with staff on standby to administer help in the case of an overdose. There are more than 90 such rooms operating around the world, including a room operating in Sydney since 2001. There has never been a fatal overdose at Sydney’s room, despite the facility managing more than 6500 overdoses.

Unsurprisingly, many relatives of those who have died of drug overdoses have offered their support for a safe injecting room. The February 16 Herald Sun said: “A Melbourne mother whose son died of a heroin overdose is backing the push for a safe injecting room trial in Victoria.

“Mum of two Cherie Short said her son, Aaron, 26, ‘would still be here today’ if he had access to a medical injecting facility in 2015.”

The February 21 Age reported that Greens MP Colleen Hartland said: “To ignore the Coroner is beyond the pale.”

Hartland was quoted by the Age the previous day saying: “When the government refuses to take action, they’re saying these lives aren't worth saving.”

For her part, Patten said: “Politicians think they have greater knowledge on this issue than the Coroner, the AMA, the Pharmacy Guild, paramedics and the rest of the experts and the first responders who are calling for an urgent trial.”

[You can add your name to the calls for a safe injecting room in Richmond here.]

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