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maribyrnong-leader.whereilive.com.au, January 10, 2012

Push for safe injecting room in Footscray

A SEDDON father confronted by drug paraphernalia in a Footscray toilet is part of a growing push for a safe injecting room in the area.

Greg Denham, pictured, the Yarra Drug and Health Forum executive officer, said he and his two young children were faced with cotton wool swabs, needle packets, sterile wipes and vials of water in the toilet on the corner of Paisley and French streets.

“I don’t think people should be forced to use public toilets to use drugs and I don’t think the public should have to be faced with those sorts of things,” Mr Denham said.

He said injecting rooms would help take the problem off the streets.

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Most recent figures, released last year by the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, showed a 16 per cent increase in heroin overdoses in Maribyrnong in the 2009-10 financial year.

Ambulances attended 123 overdoses in Maribyrnong, the second highest number in Melbourne.

Footscray doctor John Sherman is an addiction specialist with about 1400 patients at his clinic.

Dr Sherman said injecting rooms with trained medical staff were safe environments where people could inject drugs, reducing the risk of overdoses and infection.

Counselling, psychiatric treatment and other add-ons would be offered. “We’re not going to stop drug use ever, so we might as well try to reduce the harms,” Dr Sherman said.

Footscray grandmother Isabella said she started taking drugs in her 20s.

The 56-year-old said injecting rooms would neither stop addicts nor encourage people to use more, but would offer a safe place for drug users to go.

“Most people would use them (rather) than risk the (drug) blowing away in the wind or being jumped by police,” Isabella said.

Maribyrnong councillor Dina Lynch said the issue went beyond the need for injecting rooms and more funding was needed for support programs.

“I think we need to look at other options like (how) Sweden has what they call zero tolerance to drugs,” Cr Lynch said. “Their system is if you get caught and you are taking drugs, that means you are put into a (rehabilitation) program.”

Deputy Mayor Michael Clarke said the council had no plans to establish a supervised injecting facility.

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