October 4th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Is the Murray River really dying?

EDITORIAL: Britain, US vindicated over Iraq

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Will Carmen Lawrence sink Simon Crean?

MEDIA: New TV Code's drastic cuts to 'G' program time

SUNRAYSIA: Family farmers v. corporate agriculture

CANCUN: Why the WTO's free trade agenda collapsed

ASIA: Why India will not send troops to Iraq

DRUGS: Kings Cross injecting room's $2.4m road to nowhere

LETTERS: Time running out for Beijing (letter)

LETTERS: Sugar industry (letter)

AGRICULTURE: Queensland sugar deregulation stalls


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Kings Cross injecting room's $2.4m road to nowhere

by Michael D. Robinson

News Weekly, October 4, 2003
This month Drug Free Australia Ltd (DFA) published its formal response to the Kings Cross Injecting Facility (KCIF) July 2003 Report. The DFA report was a critical analysis of the injecting facility's own July 2003 report.

In paring away the marketing hype, the political and pro-harm minimisation rhetoric, the DFA report highlighted the facility's failures using its own data and statements, demonstrating that the injecting room had failed to perform positively on more than 16 of their own indicators.

Of serious concern is that the KCIF is unable to demonstrate any achievements or plan for a future role in moving illicit drug users into treatment with a drug free outcome. Data indicates it is more likely to be playing a role in actually increasing drug use among clients.

Despite growing opposition to any plans of commercialisation or facilities that mind addicts while they use, the operators of the KCIF have continued to paint a rosy picture of its activities.

They divert criticisms that their commercial gains are directly related to the provision of a facility for the illegal use of a prohibited substance with responses about getting addicts off the streets

In 1999 a desperate and yet compassionate public - tired of suffering the crime and human misery associated with illicit drugs - tolerated the idea of an injecting room that would assist in rehabilitating drug addicts.

On receiving the go-ahead to establish and operate the room, Reverend Harry Herbert is reported to have said in 2000, "We are now in business." It seems that no matter how much they fail their clients their business increases along with their government funding. The more they failed their own indicators, the more money the government gave them.

The adoption of the medical terminology "Safe Injecting Facility" was intended to cultivate its health care image. It was a misleading message given to users and the public about medical supervision. The clinical reality was that overdose management was often not "medically supervised", with a medical director on site for less than half of the facility's opening hours.

Despite the ever-increasing budget now blowing out to $2.4 million per year, nothing has improved. In some aspects the injecting room has made things worse.

Overdoses in the injecting room were up to 36 times higher than overdoses in the surrounding streets and suburbs.

This extraordinary overdose figure in part is due to the way data was collected, but not independently audited or corroborated. It may also be attributed to the phenomenon of addicts using the room for two out of every hundred injections, perhaps visiting the facility in order to test their own increased tolerance to higher drug use in somewhat safer circumstances.

Business owners who once thought the issue was one of finding an appropriate location now see the injecting room as a total failure, not living up to its own standards or public expectations.

They blame it for incubating crime and substance-affected persons, and developing a culture of hovering drug dealers like bees around a honey pot at a time when crime has fallen in a similar Sydney drug hot spot, Cabramatta, by 56%.

Most telling regarding this failure is that, in the KCIF operators own words, "There was no evidence that the operation of the MSIC affected the number of heroin overdose deaths in the Kings Cross area." The report goes on to admit that community overdoses and ambulance call outs (to the Kings Cross area) have not varied.

Bob Carr's "Mr Fix It", John Della Bosca MLC, clearly knows that in four years time he will have other responsibilities - he'll make sure of it. In his own words the four year funding extension will put the decision off until after the next NSW state election and it will be someone else's problem then.

  • Michael D. Robinson

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