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No second safe injecting room for Melbourne

The Victorian government has rejected a report calling for a second safe injecting room in Melbourne, instead pumping $95 million into health strategies.

Melbourne will not get a second supervised drug injecting room despite a Victorian government report pushing for the facility.

Premier Jacinta Allan and Mental Health Minister Ingrid Stitt ruled out another centre on Tuesday and instead announced increased medical supports.

They said $95 million would be spent on health strategies including $36.4 million to establish a new community health service on Flinders Street and $21.3 million to increase community outreach teams.

Some $9.4 million will be spent on extra support services in the city, $8.4 million on addiction treatments at 30 Victorian health facilities and $7.2 million to trial hydromorphone medication at the new Flinders Street hub, which is a treatment for the seriously addicted.

A report from former Victoria Police commissioner Ken Lay recommended an injecting facility with four to six booths in the CBD, citing the death of one drug injector a month in the city.

Premier Jacinta Allan said a suitable location for a second injecting site couldn't be found.

The government received the report in May 2023 and it was made public on Tuesday.

Mr Lay said there was widespread acknowledgement the city had a significant injecting drug problem but there were "mixed views" on what the policy and community response should be.

Some 52 per cent of respondents surveyed for the report said there was no need for a supervised injecting service in the city, while 40 per cent said there was such a need.

Ms Allan acknowledged the government at first backed a second injecting centre in the CBD but she said a location that met the needs of those with drug dependencies and the broader community could not be found.

"That is why after spending a lot of time already, we are unwilling to spend more time when we have the opportunity to take action now on strengthening supports, strengthening interventions, supporting people who are with addiction challenges to take action to support them now," she told reporters at parliament.

"That is why a second injecting service in the CBD is not our plan and it won't be proceeding."

In 2022, 549 Victorians died from drug overdoses and more than one in 10 fatal heroin overdoses occurred in the City of Melbourne.

Health experts welcomed the North Richmond facility but some locals consider it controversial.

Hotspots were intersectons along Elizabeth Street where the major thoroughfare meets Flinders Street, La Trobe Street and Franklin Street, and intersections along Swanston Street at Lonsdale Street and Bourke Street.

Consultation on the government's preferred site at 53 Victoria Street near the Queen Victoria Market indicated "broad support" for an injecting centre in the city, but local residents and businesses had concerns about the location, the report said.

Melbourne's first injecting room opened in North Richmond on a trial basis in 2018 and was made permanent in 2023 after a review found it saved 63 lives.

It is mostly used by heroin users, who bring their own drugs and inject under supervision.

The average age of clients at the facility is 43, with each person given food and directed to health services such as doctors and dentists before leaving.

The facility was welcomed by health experts but some locals consider it controversial because it is close to a primary school.

The Victorian opposition does not support creating a second site.


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