IMAGE: An exterior shot of North Richmond Community Health is shown. The main building is a large green building with textured walls which look like the rings of tree bark. There is a lower, brown building to the right-hand side of the screen. Trees are in a line by the path.
Dr Nico Clark, Medical Director of the medically supervised injecting room narrates the tour. He has a beard and is wearing a white, open-necked shirt and a grey blazer.
“So, I think is important to understand what the situation was before the room was in place. It was in the midst of a drug injection epidemic.
“This building was purpose-built for that purpose with that in mind. To try and make it a space where it could both function as a health clinic, so we could maximise the opportunities for health interventions and also that it could be a safe space and one that people felt welcome to use.
“When somebody first comes into the room, they meet the people standing at the counter. If they indicate that they are planning to use the injecting room for the first time, we would ask them a number of questions to ensure that they are eligible to use the facility.”
IMAGES: The reception area of the medically supervised injecting room and needle and syringe program. It is made of a light beech coloured wood. There are three computer screens behind the desk as well as a clock and a TV screen. On the desk is a large bottle of hand sanitiser.
“We would then also invite them to share some information with us about their circumstances. Their medical history, but that’s all optional. People can also come in here just to access some of the health and social services that we have in the consulting area.”
IMAGES: Interpreter signs are shown as well as boxes of medical equipment and the reception desk.
“So, we ask everyone when they are coming in what they are planning to use today and what they have used in the last 24-hours and that way, we can get a sense of how to respond to any emergencies that might take place in the room.
“Then people go through to the injecting zone. They will collect any sterile injecting equipment that they need. They will sit down at one of the booths. If they come by themselves they will sit down at a single booth, if they come in with somebody else they can sit down at a shared booth and typically they will spend about 20 minutes in the injecting zone.”
IMAGES: The 14 injecting booths in the injecting rooms. Each booth has a stainless-steel metal bench and a low black plastic chair. The room is very light and bright, with big blue numbers showing the number of each booth. Some have two seats while others have one seat. There are posters on the wall. One says ‘please take your belongings with you’. Another says ‘please do not break your tips’.
“They will inject themselves but we can provide advice to them so that they do that in a way that is less harmful than it may have been otherwise. And then we keep an eye on them in case they overdose and we have about three to four overdoses a day on average in which case we need to revive people.”
IMAGES: A person’s hands are shown collecting a plastic spoon, needle, swab, sterile water and a cotton ball. An oxygen mask is shown being fitted to a tube.
“Typically, if people have injected heroin they are a little bit sleepy for a few minutes, then when they are alert enough to stand up they will stand up and walk into the after-care zone. If they want to they can have a chat with some of the staff who are working here or use any of the other services that might be available.”
IMAGES: The after-care area is shown. It has chairs arranged in small clusters and a sink along the far wall.
“Now, we’ve got an additional three rooms in which we can also make other services available so we’re working with homelessness services, mental health services, people who can use the room not just to inject but to look after their health and social needs. Whether it’s a GP, hepatitis nurse, drug treatment services, a lawyer, oral health services.”
IMAGES: The consulting areas are shown. There is a long, bright corridor with a meeting room on the right-hand side. The rooms are big and bright, with lights, a sink, a computer and chairs.
“Many people who are using the room even though they are using the room to inject drugs often want support to help them stop using drugs or to at least manage their drug use, so to give an example, when we first opened someone who overdosed.
“When we revived him, he got quite a shock and he thought ‘I really don’t want to do this anymore’ and he went straight into see one of the doctors who was there and he started methadone treatment that day. And then when we saw him a few weeks later he told us what a difference that had made to his life.”
“What we saw is that the people using the room had high rates of untreated physical and mental health issues and that they were open to receiving treatment but they hadn’t been able to organise it. We really want to maximise the opportunity of the service to get people along to drug-dependence treatment for example because we think this will have the biggest long-term impact on drug use in the area.”
IMAGES: The screen fades to white. The final screen says North Richmond Community Heath, 23 Lennox St Richmond. Enter via Lennox Street. www.nrch.com.au
Reviewed 24 April 2023