Late last year, when the Andrews Government announced that North Richmond would be the home of the state’s first medically supervised injecting room, it was a huge relief for many Victorians.
Just how important this announcement was become clear during the press conference itself as paramedics rushed off to attend a suspected overdose just 50 metres away. In further good news, legislation to make it all happen was introduced the very next day on 31 October and the Bill passed on 14 December without a single amendment.
So far, so good.
The initial two year trial of the facility is due to begin mid-2018. So the question naturally arises – will this target be met?
To help answer such questions the Department of Health and Human Services held a briefing session on 31 January. What we found out is that over February and March community engagement will take place, a director recruited and the licensing framework finalised. Heading in to March and April construction will get underway and between April and June the final touches will be put in place. This includes the recruitment of staff, more community engagement and a website going live.
During the question and answer session it was revealed that people under the age of 18 won’t be able to access the facility and the only method of using drugs will be intravenous injection; smoking and snorting drugs won’t be options.
Final decisions have not be made on some of the most important issues. Drug testing facilities have been considered, though the concern is that they are too time consuming. The legislation provides that regulations will define what drugs can be brought to the centre and the quantities allowed. An Expert Advisory Group is providing advice on the regulations and their drafting will be crucial. Advice is also being sought on whether pregnant women can use the facility.
So progress is being made and given the scale of the task it is hardly surprising that it is taking time. A lot of Victorians will be watching very closely to see what decisions are made on how the centre will be run and who can access its life saving services.
– John Ronan