North Western Melbourne PHN supports the recommendations of the Victorian Coroner, delivered on 20 February 2017, to reduce heroin overdose deaths and associated harms in the City of Yarra.
This includes the recommendations to establish a supervised injecting facility trial in North Richmond, expand the availability of anti-overdose drug Naloxone and improve access to drug treatment and support services in the area.
20 people died from heroin overdoses in the City of Yarra in 2015, more than 10% of all heroin overdose deaths in Victoria in that year. More than one in five of all Victoria’s heroin related ambulance attendances are also in the City of Yarra.
Beyond the risk of overdoses, injecting drug use in public places seriously affects amenity and safety in the area, including potential for the transmission of blood-borne viruses and other potentially acquired conditions.
NWMPHN Chairperson Dr Ines Rio works at the frontline as a GP at North Richmond Community Health (NRCH), and along with her colleagues has resuscitated several people who have overdosed in the area.
“Health services in North Richmond are doing the best we can with the resources we have, but unfortunately many people aren’t able to get to a doctor or hospital when they get into trouble,” Dr Rio said.
“In 2015 NRCH tended to 56 overdoses, 78 in 2016 and to date this year we’ve treated 28. The drug and alcohol team at our centre distribute 70,000 needles per month and provide counselling, support, treatment and care for approximately 200 people per day.
“A supervised injecting facility would be huge step towards preventing overdoses and other harms caused by injecting drug use and provide a vital connection to treatment, care and support for people using the facility.”
NWMPHN CEO Adj/Associate Professor Christopher Carter said the organisation is extremely concerned at the level of drug related deaths and harm in Yarra
“This is a very serious situation that requires a multi-modal response focusing on harm minimisation, treatment and care,” A/Prof Carter said.
“As such we support the recommendations of the Victorian Coroner, which are not only strongly supported by the evidence but also by the local community, health experts and law enforcement officials.”