Dr Nico Clark to step down after saving countless lives at North Richmond MSIR

Aug 3, 2023Latest News

For Immediate Release 3 August 2023

MEDIA RELEASE: Dr Nico Clark to step down after saving countless lives at North Richmond Medically Supervised Injecting Room

North Richmond Community Health (NRCH) would like to thank Associate Professor Nico Clark for his tireless service to our organisation and the North Richmond community.

Prof Clark led the establishment of the Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR) in North Richmond and has managed the lifesaving facility as its Medical Director ever since.

Under his leadership, the service has done exactly what it was intended to do – it has saved lives, connected people to the many critical health and social support services provided at our health centre, and improved the local North Richmond community.

Both independent reviews conducted into the service found that it has achieved its objectives. The most recent review chaired by Mr John Ryan found that since opening, trained and experienced NRCH staff have safely managed almost 6,000 overdoses onsite (now over 6,300) and saved at least 63 lives. The service has taken pressure off local hospitals and reduced ambulance call outs.

The service has also pioneered a model of timely, integrated, stigma-free care which removed barriers to critical health and social supports for people who need them. Highly skilled and dedicated staff have provided more than 112,000 health and social services onsite including Hepatitis C testing and treatment, homelessness support, mental health support, dental care, general practice, and addiction support and treatment.

The Victorian Government recently announced that this life-saving facility will become a permanent fixture in the North Richmond community, which is an enormous credit to the hard work of Prof Clark and the entire MSIR team.

NRCH is committed to continuing to provide life-saving and life-changing care to the people who use the MSIR.

The service will continue to operate as normal while NRCH undergoes a search to find an appropriately experienced and compassionate person to provide clinical leadership to MSIR.


Quotes attributable to Paul Geyer, NRCH CEO (interim)

“Our community health centre is grateful to Prof Clark for leading Victoria’s first medically supervised injecting room through its establishment years.

“Prof Clark is one of the world’s foremost experts in addiction medicine and his care and service to some of our local community’s most vulnerable members should be celebrated and recognised.

“While the topic of supervised injecting rooms is regularly politicised and the subject to intense media scrutiny, Prof Clark has remained calm, compassionate, and determined to care for the clients of this critical health service.

“As multiple independent reviews have shown, the MSIR has saved many lives and positively impacted countless more.

“On behalf of NRCH, I’d like to wish Prof Clark well as he continues his critical work in the alcohol and other drug sector globally, including his current harm reduction initiatives with the World Health Organisation in Pakistan.”

Quotes attributable to Prof Clark, outgoing Medical Director of the North Richmond Medically Supervised Injecting Room

“It has been an enormous privilege for me to work alongside an amazing team of dedicated people at North Richmond Community Health, setting up and directing the Medically Supervised Injecting Room. It was also a privilege to get to know so many of the community of people who used the MSIR, to hear their stories, and to be able to offer much needed support.

“Two things stand out to me most strongly from the experience. The first has been the success of the MSIR as a gateway to health and social support.

“While there has been a lot of focus on the number of overdose lives saved, perhaps less widely understood is the efforts that went in to develop a new and unique model of care to address the different health and social needs of the people who used the MSIR and how this led to such high rates of take-up of the services being offered.

“We developed models of on-the-spot care for hepatitis, opioid pharmacotherapy, oral health care and other health and social services, showing that it is possible to provide effective health care to highly marginalised people who inject drugs, when the right model is in place.

“The second is the extent of significant early childhood trauma experienced by so many people who have used the injecting room. This is the hidden epidemic in our society. We need to do more to prevent early childhood trauma and to better care for people after they have experienced such trauma, even if it only comes to light years later.

“In addition to my other role as Head of Addiction Medicine at Royal Melbourne Hospital, I have accepted an exciting opportunity with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to support drug treatment efforts internationally.

“Now that the MSIR trial has been considered a success and a second service is under discussion, it seems like the right time to step back and allow others to continue the work.”

Media Enquiries: 0467 816 843 or ourcentre@nrch.com.au


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