After much debate the parliament’s upper house voted to maintain the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross permanently this week on Wednesday. The votes stood 22 -15 for the centre to be given permanent status. This followed approval for a change from trial to permanent status by the lower house last week.
There has been a lot of debate on the utility and need for such centers over the past few years. The center’s medical director Dr Marianne Jauncey assured that this decision was based on extensive scientific research which showed it saves lives and reduces injury from overdose.
Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt says in the nine years it has been operating, the centre has been shown to reduce drug overdoses and deaths and provide a gateway to treatment and counseling. “We would all prefer a world where a facility such as the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre is not needed…However, we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we would like it be,” she said.
However there are many who are opposed to the center’s existence. Opposition Community Services spokeswoman Pru Goward has received a petition from 63 local businesses calling for it to be relocated “to any nearby medical facility”.
However Dr. Jauncey, and the executive director of Uniting Care, the Rev Harry Herbert feel differently and say that businesses support the move. “Surveys commissioned by accounting firm KPMG, which were done properly and professionally, show 70 per cent of businesses support the centre,” Mr Herbert said. “When you do surveys with methodologies which are robust and scientifically based you find most businesses support the service,” Dr Jauncey said.
At the center there were originally 200 users registered but now there are 10,000 which overwhelms the local community which has a population of only 19,000.
Ms Goward said, “The problem is compounded because the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, won’t put syringe dispensers in public places in the streets, so there is no safe disposal of needles…This is the wrong model. There are other, better, ways of dealing with drug addiction…This has also discouraged the police.”
She also pointed out that while citing evidence the supporters of the center showed an 80 per cent reduction in ambulance call-outs in Kings Cross but did not report the 40 per cent increase of ambulance call-outs in Darlinghurst. Dr Jauncey in return said, “the greatest reductions are found closest to the centre, which is what we hoped to see. The centre saves lives.”
Ms Goward said that there is a chance that the decision for permanence of the center could be over hauled if the Coalition won government next year. But through a spokesperson, Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said he would “support the recent decision of Parliament”. “If elected to government, I will seek to ensure the injecting room meets its stated goals, especially in providing addicts with help, counseling and treatment to beat their addiction,” Mr. O’Farrell said.