National

Injecting room essential, Vic coroner says

By AAP Newswire

The first six months of a controversial Melbourne drug injecting room trial is not long enough to judge its effectiveness, but a coroner has labelled it "essential".

New figures show there was no reduction in heroin-related deaths around the North Richmond centre in its first six months of operation.

However, coroner Audrey Jamieson says that is not enough time to judge the effect of the injecting room on heroin-related harm in the area.

"Those who have long advocated for a medically-supervised injecting room might understandably be disappointed that deaths did not decline," she said on Wednesday, adding the centre's positive impacts could take longer to kick in.

The November 2018 heroin overdose death of 35-year-old Yara Mignon, found unconscious in the bathroom of a Richmond restaurant, showed the injecting room "is an essential intervention to address drug-related harms", the coroner said.

Mr Mignon was a long-term drug user and was found unconscious surrounded by drug equipment. He died from a mix of heroin, alcohol and other drugs.

"The death of Yara Mignon ... might at first glance suggest that the (facility) is failing to address heroin-involved harms in the way its supporters and advocates hoped," Ms Jamieson said.

"However I do not believe this is a fair assessment.

"Six months is not long enough to judge the effect of the (facility) on heroin-related harms."

The controversial Richmond centre opened in June 2018 as part of an 18-month trial, to target the increasing number of overdose deaths in the area.

In the first two months it was used by about 8000 people.

Operators of the facility report there have been more than 650 overdoses but no deaths at the centre.

Data published by Ms Jamieson showed there were 12 heroin deaths in the area in the six months after the centre opened, which "was practically the same as in the six months leading up to the trial (13 deaths)".

"Yara Mignon's death was, unfortunately, not an isolated occurrence - heroin-involved overdose deaths continue to occur in public locations in North Richmond following the (facility's) implementation," she said.

The injecting centre has provoked outcry among some nearby residents, including for its proximity to Richmond West Primary School.

But Victoria's Mental Health Minister Martin Foley last month said there were no plans to end the trial and a larger neighbouring facility is under construction.