Greek residents and traders in Richmond have branded Victoria’s only safe injecting room, in North Richmond, a failure saying a different response was needed to fight the area’s drug problem.

A woman of Greek background, who didn’t want to be identified, but who has lived in the area near the Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR) for more than 20 years said she couldn’t understand why the state government
established the room at its present location in the first place.

“Why did they do it? For good looks?” she asked.

She said the MSIR was not improving the drug problem in the area as drug addicts were still endangering their lives by injecting and still injecting in public.

“Is it making any difference?” she asked. “So why did they do it? To show that they are doing something. It’s disgusting. The cops don’t do anything. Everyone in the neighbourhood says it.”

Victoria’a first safe injecting room was established in North Richmond in June 2018 in response to the more than 30 deaths from drug overdoses in the area in a one year period. The crisis was also tying up ambulances.

READ MORE: Is pill testing a green light to take drugs? Experts argue no

The MSIR was built as part of the North Richmond Community Health (NRCH) centre in Lennox St, and opened last year on 30 June. A narrow carpark and wire fence separate it from Richmond West Primary School.

The two-year trial of the facility ends in three weeks on 30 June, and there will be a review by an independent panel.

The Melbourne inner-city suburb of Richmond is home to many residents of Greek heritage, including the first generation of post-World War II migrants who settled in the suburb and had families.

The woman of Greek background who recently witnessed people injecting a infront of her as she passed the community health centre, said MSIR should never have been situated between a clinic and a primary school to begin with.

She blamed the state government for establishing it, the NRCH centre for agreeing to it, and the primary school and parents who didn’t take the pupils out of the school in protest.

READ MORE: A Greek mother’s love saves son from addiction

“They continue kids to go to school,” she said.

She said the six other Greek families in her street and her Australian neighbours held the same views.

“All Greeks in the area will say the same thing,” she said.

“Police just give them (drug addicts) a slap on the hand.

“It’s coming from the rest of the neighbourhood.”

She said last Monday (1 June) a 15-year-old girl was shooting up outside in the street.
“What can I tell her?” she asked. “Why is she allowed to do it?”

History of Victoria’s MSIR

The Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR) is in the North Richmond Community Health centre, in Lennox St, North Richmond, near a large public housing estate, Richmond West Primary School, and private residential housing.

It is  the second supervised injecting facility in Australia.

The other is in King’s Cross, in Sydney.

There are reportedly more than 100 such facilities worldwide.

According to the North Richmond Community Health (NRCH) website, the MSIR opened on 30 June 2017 as a two-year trial.

It is  open everyday, is free to users 18 years old or more, and no drugs are supplied on site.

“A medically supervised injecting room  is a hygienic  place where people can inject drugs in a supervised health setting,” the website says.

“This means that if someone overdoses in the room, a staff member can respond immediately.

“It’s also a place to access other health services like mental health support, drug treatment, wound care and blood testing.”

The website states that the MSIR’s benefits have been the following:

  • Decreasing the number of overdose deaths and overdose harm;
  • Decreasing ambulance attendances and emergency department presentations related to overdoses;
  • Decreasing the number of discarded needles and syringes in nearby public areas;
  • Helping decrease the spread of bloodborne diaeases; and
  • Providing a “gateway” to health and social services for drug injectors

The MSIR’s location is specified in legislation so no other MSIR can be opened elsewhere.

The legislation establishing the MSIR requires it to be evaluated after two years, that is, in three weeks time, on 30 June this year.

For further information on the MSIR and its achievements go to https://nrch.com.au/services.

Tours of the facility have been cancelled until further notice because of  COVID-19.

For pick up of discarded syringes in the City of Yarra, call the hotline on 9417 5125 or e-mail yarrasyringe.dispodal@cohealth.org.au