[Hpn] Melbourne, AU - Injecting rooms alone not enough: welfare chief - The Age News - November 23, 2003

HC Covington HC Covington" <hcc@icanamerica.org
Sat, 22 Nov 2003 16:05:23 -0500


Injecting rooms alone not enough: welfare chief

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By Melissa Marino - The Age News - November 23, 2003

Melbourne, AU - As support for supervised injecting rooms
emerges from Canberra, a leading Melbourne welfare agency
has abandoned support for them, saying a trial shows they
would not help homeless heroin addicts.

The Hanover Welfare Centre has monitored the progress of
homeless drug addicts for two-and-a-half years in a joint
study with the Salvation Army and the St Vincent de Paul
Society.

Speaking at its annual general meeting on Friday, Hanover
chief executive officer Tony Nicholson said the trial
indicated supervised injecting rooms would do nothing to
help the rehabilitation of homeless people addicted to
drugs. As a result, his agency could not support the
introduction of injecting rooms to the state, he said.

"Supervised injecting centres would have been a failure for
the homeless," he said. "They would have simply addressed
the drug use in isolation from all the other factors that
were causing people to use drugs."

His comments came as the Australian Parliamentary Group for
Drug Law reform - made up of state and federal politicians
from all parties - called for supervised injecting rooms in
all states and territories and some regional areas as part
of a national trial.

Mr Nicholson said Hanover had an open mind when in 1999 the
Victorian Labor Party, in its first term, proposed a trial
of supervised injecting rooms. It had been prepared to
support the idea in principal as a "flood" of heroin hit
Melbourne streets.

Legislation to introduce the trial was defeated in the upper
house, and the Government has since shelved its plans.

In Sydney, the operation of a safe injecting centre in Kings
Cross was recently extended after a two-year trial was
deemed a success. The NSW Government extended the trial
until 2007 after a report found it had saved lives, reduced
drug use in the streets and prompted some users to seek
treatment.

But, Mr Nicholson said, because supervised injecting centres
did not tackle other aspects of people's lives, they would
not have reduced drug use by the homeless. "Nor would it
have done anything to address community concerns over
street-based drug use," he said.

Mr Nicholson said studies by the Turning Point Alcohol and
Drug Centre and the MacFarlane Burnett Institute suggested
homeless people accounted for between a third and a half of
street-based drug use.  More than half of those who
reported that their most frequent location for injecting was
in public.

A $7 million, three-year trial funded by the Victorian
Government showed integrated support was the most effective
way to reduce drug use among the homeless.

He said 3,780 homeless people had been housed in crisis
accommodation by Hanover, St Vincent de Paul and the
Salvation Army since the trial began.

Of those, two-thirds had drug problems but after an average
stay of five weeks in the crisis accommodation, drug use
halved.

Mr Nicholson said that in the trial, crisis centres provided
safe shelter, food, primary health care and counselling.
"Tackle their homelessness first and foremost," he said.

"Take the chaos out of their lives, give them a sense of
hope about the future and you see a dramatic drop in drug
use and in street-based drug use."

Underlying problems such as mental illness, often the cause
of the drug problem, could then be tackled.

Mr Nicholson said injecting rooms alone were not the answer
because most street-based drug-taking was by homeless
people.

"If you tackle their homelessness then you don't have a need
for that type of stand-alone facility," he said.

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