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Melbourne’s injection centre to open longer

The Medically Supervised Injection Centre opened last year in an effort to curb an increase in overdose deaths. Courtesy: Supplied

Melbourne’s safe injecting room will have increased hours once a new centre opens later this year.

Services at the North Richmond facility will be available an extra three hours a day, the state government announced today in response to community concerns.

“So far we’ve been successful in saving lives … now we turn our minds to engagement with the wider community to make the amenity more durable, safer, better for the North Richmond community,” Health Minister Martin Foley said.

Local residents and business owners have raised concerns about the number of people openly using heroin in the streets around the facility, which opened as a two-year trial site last year but operators say that’s because the problem is larger than their current capacity.

A larger site next door is hoped to become operational by mid-July, which will have extended hours from 7am to 9pm on weekdays and 8am to 7pm on weekends.

“We’re hoping that we will be able to provide the capacity for more people to get in the facility rather than outside the facility,” Dr Clark said.

Mr Foley said there had been 650 overdose incidents but not deaths since it opened.

It has long been the hottest of hot spots for drug use in our state,” he said.

The last six to eight months have seen a response that has been successful by a measure of lives being saved.

Paramedics are also noticing a reduction in the number of drug overdoses and recording an almost 10 per cent reduction in the rate of drug-related attendances in the area.

More security patrols, additional lighting and street sweeps for syringes were also announced while former police chief commissioner Ken Lay has been appointed to the expert advisory board reporting on the trial.

Mr Lay admitted during his previous career he thought of the response to drug issues as needing a law enforcement approach but now sees that’s not the sole solution

Opposition spokesman Tim Smith criticised the government for shifting the trial goalposts.

He said the government should listen to locals who had said for months that the centre would be a honey pot for hardened drug users and dealers from around Melbourne.

If the locals, as I understand it, are saying this is now like a honey pot, having it open for an extra two hours in the evening is not a good way of protecting them from increased drug activity and antisocial behaviour he said.

Local Richmond MP and government minister Richard Wynne said he met last week with police who have stepped up patrols and who say the notion of a honey pot effect is not correct.

He said there was a need for more intensive needle and syringe pick ups, which had been an unintended consequence of the facility.