Presenting author: Bianca Whiteside
Presenting author biography:
A recipient of a Deakin Burnet Research Partnership Scholarship, Bianca commenced her Ph.D. in mid-2022. Her project explores the relationship between public amenity and drug consumption rooms. Currently, Bianca is undertaking structured observations in the area particular to the North Richmond Medically Supervised Injecting Room.
The impact of a supervised injecting facility on public amenity
Bianca Whiteside, Paul Dietze, Claire Sidlow, Dylan Vella-Horne, Joanna Wilson, Jana Kruger, Bek Petrovic, Peter Higgs, Matthew Dunn
Supervised injecting facilities (SIF) are an evidence-based harm reduction response for people who inject drugs. Research shows they reduce the risk of drug related harms while also addressing public amenity issues associated with injecting drug use. Victoria’s first SIF, the Melbourne Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR) underwent an extensive review in 2020. The report provided evidence that found decreased rates of non-fatal overdose, with limited data suggesting no improvement to public amenity in the surrounding area. We aimed to document public amenity issues in the North Richmond area as part of an ongoing examination of the impact of the SIF.
Since August 2022 structured observations are being conducted in the neighbourhood surrounding the SIF. Field researchers capture information on people and behaviours including public drug use, injecting and related litter, street activities, and unusual events. Routine observations are initially being conducted twice daily, one day per week. Quantitative data were summarised using descriptive statistics.
There are several distinct locations where public injecting occurs outside the SIF with a total of 37 discarded needle-syringes collected. Amongst the total number of observed people (n=159), fieldworkers identified public consumption of alcohol (4%) and injecting drug use (3%). Security guards and police vehicles were also noted as being present in a range of locations.
SIFs are an important harm reduction response, however general community concern regarding how they may impact the local amenity can be a barrier to their implementation. We have commenced observation of public spaces in the North Richmond area with a view to understanding the drug market and ongoing amenity issues related to its operations. Ongoing structured observations will enable information on public injecting, litter, and general public amenity to be recorded to understand the impact of the facility and better support the implementation and operation of essential harm reduction services.