Victorian Government Will Not Build Second Drug Injecting Room in Melbourne

‘A second injecting service in the CBD is not our plan, and it won’t be proceeding,’ said Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan.
Victorian Government Will Not Build Second Drug Injecting Room in Melbourne
A drug user takes a needle before injecting himself with heroin in New London, Conn., on March 23, 2016. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Alfred Bui

The Victorian government will not set up a second supervised drug injecting room to cater to the demand of drug users in the state.

On April 23, Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan and Mental Health Minister Ingrid Stitt announced a new action plan to tackle drug harm, which ruled out a second drug injecting room in the CBD (central business district).

The premier cited an inability to find a suitable location that could balance the needs of drug users and those of the local community as the main reason for the decision.

“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.

“That is why a second injecting service in the CBD is not our plan, and it won’t be proceeding.”

To make up for the abandoned facility, the Victorian government increased the funding for programs tackling drug harm.

Specifically, the state government will spend $95.11 million (US$61.44 million) on health strategies, including $36.4 million to establish a new community health service on Flinders Street and $21.3 million to expand community outreach teams to provide more support for drug users.

Around $9.4 million will go toward extra support services in Melbourne, while $8.4 million will be spent on addiction treatments at 30 health facilities across the state.

In addition, the state government will set aside $7.2 million to trial hydromorphone as a treatment for seriously addicted people.

“People struggling with addiction deserve our care wherever they are, and our statewide plan will save lives with a new community health service for the city while boosting support services in our suburbs and regions,” Ms. Allan said.

The premier’s announcement comes after a report (pdf) by former Victoria Police Commissioner Ken Lay indicated a need for an injecting facility in Melbourne CBD due to an increase in drug-related deaths in the area.

According to the report, while the majority of the surveyed residents acknowledged the city had a serious drug problem, there were different views about what could be done to tackle the issue.

Around 52 percent of the respondents rejected the idea of a supervised injecting service in the CBD, while 40 percent supported the measure.

Victoria’s Drug Injecting Room Program

The drug injecting room program was introduced by former Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in 2017 and came into effect in 2018.

At that time, Mr. Andrews said the program would “save lives and keep Victorians safe.”

The first drug injecting facility was built in North Richmond in 2018 as part of a trial and was later made permanent in 2023 after the Ken Lay report found that it had saved up to 63 lives since inception.

Most of those who used the facility were heroin users with an average age of 43.

The users brought their own drugs and injected them under the supervision of health staff.

They were also provided with food and directed to other health services before leaving the facility.

Despite the support of the government, local residents near the facility raised significant concerns about its negative impact on their local community.

There were reports of increased crime and injecting and even dead bodies in the area.

As the facility was near a primary school, parents were worried that their children would be exposed to drug usage at an early age.

There were also health concerns as drug users left syringes on the streets after using the facility.

Meanwhile, the state Opposition has explicitly opposed the establishment of the second supervised drug injecting room in Melbourne CBD.

According to recent data from the Coroners Court of Victoria, 549 Victorians died from drug overdoses in 2022, the highest annual figure recorded in the past decade.

Over 77 percent of overdose deaths involved multiple drugs, with metropolitan Melbourne accounting for over three-quarters of the death cases.

Alfred Bui is an Australian reporter based in Melbourne and focuses on local and business news. He is a former small business owner and has two master’s degrees in business and business law. Contact him at [email protected].