18th August 2023
The current strategies being developed, and some implemented to deal with two of the social blights of our society, Drug and alcohol abuse, have and continue to fail, causing substantial disquiet, and a danger to the rest of the law-abiding citizenry.
On the one hand, we send people, of yet-to-be-determined capabilities and skills, onto the streets to recover drunks and remove them to somewhere safe to recover (Drunk Tanks) and on the other, we facilitate drug addiction at safe injecting rooms (MSIR) accounting for a comparatively very small number of addicts, but the majority are just left on the streets to rot where they fall. A classic, ‘being seen to be doing something’.
Perhaps misguided compassion at best or an underlying strategy to minimise an adverse impact on the illegal drug trade, we do not know, but something is terribly wrong with the current approach.
High on the list of ‘wrongs’ is picking up drunks.
Whoever these people are performing these tasks, they will be at high risk of personal harm or high risk of litigation if somebody they are dealing with is harmed. Before the project sees the light of day, ‘Work Cover’ may have something to say about risks to their responsibility.
While it may sound benign in theory, the reality is that a large percentage of the ‘Drunks’ are not only suffering from alcohol excesses as they did 40 years ago, but today’s drunks are more likely to have achieved their state with a cocktail of drugs and alcohol – the ultimate party pack.
This cocktail approach increases the likelihood of belligerence, and the risk of outsourcing this Drunk recovery mechanism, is absolutely fraught with danger.
The Drunk Tank concept is, at best unnecessary and, at worst, placating to a small number of vocal groups that are blind to reality (focusing on the individual) rather than focusing on the overall impact on society.
It is very easy to take one aspect, in the case of drunkenness, the risk to the drunk, and ignore the other aspects of this behaviour.
If we are only talking about Drunks that are comatose and a response from them cannot be elicited, then it is a medical issue and a role for an Ambulance. If they are responsive, then the traditional four hours in a Police cell is perfectly adequate. Albeit that the provision of support services immediately when they sober up would be an enlightened improvement.
The other and most important aspect of managing people who are affected by alcohol is the common propensity for them to become belligerent and often very hostile to either people in authority first and foremost, or anybody in the vicinity.
The greatest risk of this behaviour manifesting is in the domestic situation and is surprisingly common. Drunkenness and drugs are a huge problem, not restricted to the public space.
The so-called safe injecting room (MSIR) is a political stunt and is presented as a solution; however, the facility only claims, on disturbingly questionable data, that they believe they have saved 63 lives.
When you add those alleged saved lives to the irrefutable statistics, there has to be a substantial question mark over this spurious claim. Because of the nature of the question, there can never be a definitive answer- so at best, they think/claim they may have saved 63 lives.
However, the real question is, does the injecting facility, the MSIR, actually reduce harm or elevate it?
The statistics from the Coroners Court, which are empirical, conclusively show that since the introduction of the MSIR in 2018, there has been no appreciable reduction in drug overdose deaths. Moreover, the trajectory of the increase in deaths, apart from the hiatus caused by COVID, has not altered but has accelerated.
The exponential increase in lives wasted, from 2012 to 2022 (above), has shown no major trend deviation from the impact of the MSIR, which opened in 2018, on Drug deaths. The impact is so low as to be arguably meaningless on any creditable cost-benefit analysis or on a community impact consideration, and a new way to deal with these issues is essential.
Unfortunately, too many involved in the MSIR concept, see the facility as ‘the great gift’. The gift, however, is not as presumed, but is a gift to the drug industry, where their marketing models are fed by the MSIR.
The much-maligned ‘Honey Pot’ effect dismissed by proponents of the MSIR is real. There can be no greater demonstration of the adverse impact of the MSIR, wherever it is located, as shown by the geospatial distribution of inappropriately disposed of syringes since the opening of the MSIR. Published by the City of Yarra.
This data (above) excludes syringes collected by MSIR staff in the immediate vicinity of the MSIR, which is a perverse strategy to support the image of the MSIR -what needles? No needles around here.
The distribution of syringes not only shows the focal point of users from the introduction of the MSIR but the huge growth in used syringes, supporting the view that users are congregating from a wide area of Melbourne, debunking the theory that the MSIR has to be located where the addicts are – build a shrine and the faithful will come.
This geospatial image does not include the syringes disposed of properly into one of the over ninety safe needle disposal facilities within the City of Yarra.
The communities in the vicinity now have irrefutable proof of the direct impact and danger to their community and, more importantly, the increase directly caused by the MSIR.
The locations of syringes mean a huge number of addicts do not use the facility but are attracted to the locality.
The two main drivers are the MSIR providing a focal point with access to the concentration of dealers for addicts, and the Police exercising discretion in the vicinity of the MSIR.
A safe place for dealers to ply their trade with, impunity.
While a safe area for addicts and users, the same cannot be said for those that live nearby and are forced to tolerate this despicable trade.
The proposal for an MSIR in the inner city is inevitably going to achieve a similar outcome with no-go areas evolving in the vicinity, something the residents of Richmond are currently forced to endure but will inevitably be replicated with the inner-city proposal.
There is an unquestionable statistic that bears out the impact.
The Primary school enrolments show a comparison between the Primary School (RWPS) that is unfortunate enough to be located opposite the MSIR and the other Primary schools in the area.
Enrolments at RWPS peaked in 2018, which coincides with the opening of the MSIR; from there, the numbers are moving away from that school; close to a third of Prep enrolments have gone elsewhere to other local options; this is not a coincidence; but the community fears for their children’s safety.
This number of enrolments would be substantially lower if many of the residents that would normally use this school for their children were not at the lower end of the Scio-economic scale, and probably cannot afford to take their children elsewhere.
However, the trend is very concerning and is a clear demonstration of the increasing disquiet the community feels, particularly for the youngest and most vulnerable.
We do not think anybody would be so naive as to think, ‘They are only preppies’.
They will latch on very fast to what is going on just outside their school gate, an education they must be spared, hammered by the very presence as it normalises drug abuse in these most malleable minds. The long-term impact does not bear thinking about, but we must.
The CAA will soon be publishing a proposal to address these issues that ameliorate community concerns and still provide compassion for addicts, compassion that is welfare based and focused on rehabilitation rather than facilitating and promoting drug and alcohol abuse as is the current strategy, which is clearly The ‘Wrong Way’.
We need to ‘Go Back’ and start a ‘war’ on substance abuse, a war we have never properly engaged in.