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A drug-injecting room should be established in Melbourne's inner north as part of a parliamentary inquiry into illicit substances, Sex Party MP Fiona Patten says. Every year more than 20 people on average die from heroin overdoses in a small rectangle of north Richmond, according to community health providers.
Fiona Patten has introduced a bill into the Victorian Parliament to allow for a consumption room pilot. Credit: James Brickwood. The push for a "safe consumption room" in the drug use hot spot comes amid a coronial inquest of a year-old woman who died in north Richmond. The inquest will look at fatal heroin overdoses and how to stop them.
After championing protest buffer zones for abortion clinics and pushing for change on assisted dying, Ms Patten is now focusing on a safe drug room for north Richmond. Deaths from heroin overdoses in north Richmond have risen sharply. Credit: Eddie Jim. Last week Ms Patten introduced a bill into the Victorian Parliament to allow for a consumption room pilot in which drug users would be supervised by medical professionals and provided with access to social work and mental health services.
She wants an inquiry into illicit drugs to include the injecting room and a pilot for pill-testing at major events. Pill-testing facilities allow revellers to check the chemical make-up of the substances they intend to consume. Ms Patten is calling for the decriminalisation of drug possession only "to the extent necessary" to allow the safe room and pill-testing trial to proceed.
The consumption room would focus first on injectable drugs, including heroin, with the potential to expand to other substances. It would be modelled on an injecting room in Sydney, which some medical professionals have hailed as highly successful. Ms Patten said injectable drugs were the most immediate problem, with users injecting in public and overdoses occurring in shop doorways. The parliamentary inquiry into drugs, treatment programs and laws is due to release its report next year.
A spokeswoman for Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said the government would await the findings from the coroner and the parliamentary inquiry and consider their recommendations. Yarra City Council mayor Amanda Stone supports the creation of a consumption room in the inner northern municipality.
Cr Stone said drug use on Victoria Street had reached "crisis point". She said many residents supported a drug room but some groups wanted CCTV cameras installed instead. Drug Law Reform Foundation president Alex Wodak said safe drug rooms in Europe, which are equipped with medical and social services, had proved to be overwhelmingly successful. He said visitors to those rooms could arrange appointments with doctors and receive check-ups for sexually transmitted infections. Dr Wodak said the safe rooms also prevented non-fatal overdoses, which placed a heavy toll on drug users' lives and the health system.
Sex Party calls for drug-injecting room in Richmond. Please try again later. The Age. Save Log in , register or subscribe to save articles for later. Normal text size Larger text size Very large text size. this article. Benjamin Preiss is The Age's regional editor. He was ly state rounds reporter and has also covered education for The Age.
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