PARAMEDICS have treated a second suspected overdose victim near North Richmond’s safe injecting room site after a person earlier had an apparent overdose metres from where Premier Daniel Andrews was giving a media conference.
The man overdosed on Lennox St at 12.28pm and was attended to by paramedics.
It comes after Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed this morning a safe injecting room trial would proceed at the nearby North Richmond Community Health Centre. Mr Andrews said he had changed his mind about the need for the centre, saying a rising number of deaths couldn’t be ignored.
He told the Herald Sun this morning’s first overdose was another example of why the change was needed. The woman who had the overdose was escorted into an ambulance and was conscious. A local resident, who wished to remain anonymous, raised the alarm with paramedics who spoke during the announcement.
“She was dead cold, I saw all the media and called for help,” she said.
“This isn’t an odd occasion, this is our reality as locals, this how serious it is.”
Another local, Lola Vallent, said she walked past the woman lying on the road. “We called for help, and then the ambulance arrived,” she said. “We see this stuff every day … more needs to be done. I have grandchild who shouldn’t be seeing this behaviour.”
Earlier at his press conference Mr Andrews said he had changed his view on the safe injecting room. “There can be no rehabilitation if you are dead,” he said.
“This is about saving lives. I have changed my view on this because the evidence is just so compelling.
“If it was my son or my daughter I would want this facility.”
Angry residents in the neighbouring street where the overdose occurred this morning railed against the plan, however.
One resident attacked authorities for letting Melbourne’s drug scourge “proliferate” in the area.
“It’s been an absolute hotbed, it has been allowed,” she said.
“There goes the neighbourhood, let’s sell.”
But paramedics at the announcement this morning welcomed the plan for a centre saying it would reduce 2000 drug overdose call outs they have and save lives.
Mental Health Minister Martin Foley told 3AW a first time user could potentially use the facility.
“If you are doing this for the first-time obviously our people would seek to persuade you doing from it,” he said.
“The opportunity would be available to you. It is not legitimising it is about targeting those particularly chaotic difficult cases that we know are regularly dying on and around the streets of North Richmond.”
Reason Party MP Fiona Patten, who led the push for a safe injecting room, hailed the government’s about-face as a win for evidence-based policy.
“It saves lives, it saves taxpayer dollars, it frees up our emergency services, it reduces crime and it delivers positive outcomes for individuals and society,” Ms Patten said.
But Opposition Leader Matthew Guy says the Liberals and Nationals won’t support an injecting room and there are other measures to consider.
“We’ve believed for a long period of time there are other tracks that we should follow, whether it’s about one-on-one support rather than having a centralised facility in a certain location,” Mr Guy said.
TOUGHER laws allowing police to tackle large-scale heroin trafficking will be introduced at the same time as the supervised drug injecting centre is set up.
The radical plan for an injecting centre, where addicts will be allowed to take heroin while a doctor and counselling services are on hand, has been approved by Cabinet.
It is due to open in North Richmond and will be for two years, with an option to extend for another three years.
It would begin in March, if legislation passes State Parliament.
The bill will specifically limit the number of licences for such facilities to one, to ensure no other injecting rooms pop up across Melbourne.
A panel of health and community experts will report back on the trial in 2019.
A growing number of overdose deaths — last year there were 172 statewide, 34 of them in Melbourne’s inner north — helped trigger a policy backflip by Premier Daniel Andrews, revealed by the Herald Sun.
But the government will also move to crack down on drug peddlers by reducing the quantity of heroin that must be trafficked to attract heavy jail penalties.
The threshold for commercial trafficking, which has a maximum sentence of 25 years’ jail, will be lowered from 250g to 50g.
For large-scale commercial trafficking, which can be punished with a life sentence, the threshold will be lowered from 750g to 500g.
The injecting centre would be modelled on parts of the room operating in Kings Cross, Sydney. Victoria Police and health bureaucrats and experts would have oversight.
Victoria Police is unlikely to oppose the trial. Paramedics and firefighters have previously voiced their support for a safe injecting room
The Herald Sun understands the North Richmond Community Health Centre, which now runs needle-exchange programs, will be approved to run the trial.
The centre dispenses 80,000 needles a month.
Police Minister Lisa Neville told the Herald Sun laws tackling organised crime and dealers would help “stop the tragic impact on Victorian families”.
“Fuelling the drug problem is organised crime, hardened dealers and traffickers, whose business model relies on exploitation, pushing drugs on to vulnerable people and cashing in on massive mark-ups. Ultimately, these drug-dealing criminals are trading on the suffering of others,” she said.
“These tough new penalties will make it easier to hold the right people to account.”
Labor is currently fighting the Greens, who also support the injecting centre, in a nailbiting Northcote by-election.
And the Opposition is already attacking the plan as a failure to engage in the “war on drugs”. Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said on Monday the government had presented nothing to change his view.
The government is likely to have enough parliamentary support for new drug laws.
A Bill for a medically supervised injecting room has been introduced to the Upper House already, by Reason party MLC Fiona Patten.
The new laws are likely to adopt parts of that, which have already been the subject of a parliamentary inquiry.
In a submission in April, North Richmond Community Health Centre chief executive Demos Krouskos said the centre had long-term experience in providing services that would be offered alongside supervised injection.
The Kings Cross safe injection centre in Sydney, which has been operating for 16 years, is a drop-in centre. Many experts believe an integrated model, with on-site health services, is preferable.
Residents for Victoria Street Drug Solutions have campaigned for the room.
Abbotsford local Derek Troy-West said people wanted to see users off the street and in a safe place, saying: “I’ll have it at the bottom of my street if it means people no longer die in public in our neighbourhood.”
– Matt Johnston, Cassie Zervos and Ian Royall, Herald Sun,