Yesterday, North Richmond Community Health staff were among the hundreds of people who marched in North Richmond. We, like the many community members we gathered with, are committed to seeing a supervised injecting facility in North Richmond.
Each day, we care for people who use drugs. North Richmond Community Health is the major provider of harm minimisation services in North Richmond, the area with the highest rate and frequency of heroin-related deaths in Victoria.
We provide people who use drugs with advice, support and clean equipment. We get to know many of them, and about their lives; their histories and their aspirations.
Over the years, we have seen many of those people die, in circumstances that were tragic and preventable.
Since January 2015, we have responded to more than 143 overdoses on our premises alone. It may be a young family who happen to notice a person slumped and unconscious on the street. It might be that person’s friend or family member, terrified and distressed, who runs into our centre to get some help.
Our staff and local paramedics gather in gutters, behind cars, on the foot path or in stairwells, trying their best to help person who has overdosed. Often, we don’t know how long a person has been there for. Sometimes, it’s too late.
For us, death from overdose is not an abstract idea. We have seen the impact of heroin overdose first hand. We know that supervised injecting facilities save lives. That is why we joined the March to Save Lives on 27 August.
The event, organised by the Victoria Street Drug Solutions residents group, saw the community come together to remember those we have lost, and fight for those we may soon lose.
As the organisation on the frontline in the fight against overdose, we are grateful to the residents, family members, advocates and community members who attended to support this cause. We also acknowledge the impact of stigma and criminalisation, and that the rally could not provide a space where people who use drugs were able to safely speak about their own experiences. We thank Laura Turner, Loretta Gabriel and the O’Donnell family, Judy Ryan and Robert Richter for sharing their stories.
North Richmond Community Health is committed to continuing our fight against overdose, and committed to our advocacy for a supervised injecting facility.
On Thursday 31 August, we will be marking Overdose Awareness Day with a free community event. All are welcome.