The Victorian Government has appointed former Victorian Police Commissioner, Ken Lay (pictured) to lead the project for a second supervised drug injecting room in Melbourne.
The independent review panel for Victoria’s first supervised injecting Room in North Richmond recommended a second be built in the City of Melbourne, which recorded 51 heroin-related deaths between January 2015 and September 2019.
Minister for Mental Health, Martin Foley said City of Melbourne also had the second highest ambulance attendances for heroin overdoses after the City of Yarra.
He said Mr Lay would work with health and drug reform experts to analyse data and evidence on drug harms within the City of Melbourne and oversee a public community engagement process, seeking the views of all interested parties on the Government’s preferred site.
“We’ve listened to the advice of health experts since the very beginning of this project and we’ll continue to be guided by them on the appropriate site for a second safe injecting room,” said Mr Foley.
“We’re pleased to have someone of Ken’s calibre lead this process, his vast experience across a range of areas means he’ll be able to listen, collaborate and provide the well-rounded expert advice needed for this life saving facility.”
He said the consultation process would consider drug activity and harms, existing health and social services, safety and amenity, transport options, policing and infrastructure requirements.
“There will also be an opportunity for residents and traders to have their voices heard.”
This work will then be collated with a report presented to the Minister for Mental Health by the end of 2020.
The Victorian Government recently accepted all the recommendations made by the independent review panel into Victoria’s first safe injecting room.
The Government’s preferred site for the second service is cohealth central city, at 53 Victoria Street.
“However, if City of Melbourne identifies an alternative site that meets the criteria laid out by the review panel, the Government will remain open to that,” Mr Foley said.
“As one of the largest community health services in Victoria, cohealth’s diverse range of established health and social services mean it is well located to be a site for a second facility. The second site will also help take pressure off the current North Richmond service, reduce the burden on ambulance and hospital services and save lives.”
As part of this new role, Mr Lay will also lead the neighbourhood renewal project in North Richmond.
“Following a recommendation made by the expert review panel, the Government is investing more than $9 million to help improve amenity and the perceptions of safety in the area around the North Richmond facility.”
“This also includes $3 million to support projects identified in partnership with the local community, for the local community,” Minister Foley said.