May 2013

Research conducted by the Burnet Institute in partnership with the Yarra Drug and Health Forum, the City of Yarra, and North Richmond Community Health Centre, and funded by the Centre for Research Excellence into Injecting Drug Use (CREIDU), prompts calls for a change of approach to injecting drug use in Melbourne's inner suburbs.

The "North Richmond Public Injecting Impact Study” report was released on Monday 20 May by researchers Dr Robyn Dwyer (National Drug Research Institute), Professor Robert Power and Professor Paul Dietze (both from the Burnet Institute), at a community forum in Richmond Town Hall.

The researchers identified increasing rates of heroin-related overdose attendances by Ambulance Victoria (The City of Yarra had the highest number of attendances of any local government in Melbourne); a four-fold increase in the past two years in the collection of needles and syringes from disposal bins street-sweep operations; and a lack of access to sterile injecting equipment after hours and on weekends leading to a medium to high risk of blood-borne virus infection among people who re-used syringes.

Professor Paul Dietze said new public health responses were needed to address the public injecting issues in North Richmond.

“Our research identifies two main priorities; to improve access to harm reduction services and materials, and a need to improve public amenity for those who live and work in the area,” Professor Dietze said.

Among the report’s 13 recommendations are the need to extend hours and coverage of needle syringe programs to ensure 24-hour access; greater collaboration between Police and local services to encourage service use; and the need to encourage people who inject drugs to take control of their health and safety.

Data collected included structured observations, interviews with key stakeholders (including local traders health workers, welfare and community workers, police, people who inject drugs and and residents), and secondary indicators such as needle and syringe disposal, and Ambulance Victoria data.

Download the report here.

Listen to the ABC’s current affairs show, The World Today’s report on the CREIDU/Burnet Institute North Richmond Public Injecting Impact Study.

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact: Professor Paul Dietze, Head of Alcohol and other Drug Research, Centre for Population Health; Burnet Principal for Alcohol, other drugs and harm reduction, Deputy Chair CREIDU: Tel +61 3 9282 2134, email: pauld@burnet.edu.au

“Effective public health responses require whole-of-community, holistic strategies that balance the requirements of health with those of law enforcement to reduce harm to individuals and the community.”

Professor Paul Dietze