Moree Plains Shire Council calls for safe injecting, needle exchange facilities in submission to ice inquiry

The Commissioner, Professor Dan Howard SC.
The Commissioner, Professor Dan Howard SC.

Moree Plains Shire Council has called for a safe injecting room to be a part of the new proposed hospital for Moree, in an attempt to reduce the significant number of used syringes contaminating the shire's waste each year.

According to evidence tendered to the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug 'Ice', Moree Plains Shire Council's waste department found 50,000 used needles in the rubbish last year.

"Often truckloads of garbage is contaminated from users just putting needles in the bins, hence a safety issue for the waste management resources of our town," council said in its submission to the inquiry.

Council said "Moree could use a safe injecting room at the new proposed hospital", as well as a black box distribution point on hospital grounds and a needle exchange program in the prison system.

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"As the black box distribution points are within a hospital or health service area, would it not be pertinent to place an annex to the distribution point for persons to inject safely and therefore dispose of safely?" the submission said.

"Increased use in Moree has the community as a whole wanting something to be done but a discrete option of placement within the hospital grounds of any hospital should be considered as this would not take additional resources away from the hospital unless there were an emergency."

Maayu Mali Residential Rehabilitation Centre manager of community health programs David Kelly also told the inquiry that needle syringe programs are a "vital" harm reduction measure in the Moree community, with about 25 per cent of ice users injecting the drug.

"I do think that access to needle and syringe programs, but also to inhalation equipment [is important]. I understand there's community concerns around that, but understanding that the person that we're talking about is going to use drugs that day, it's better not just for their health but it's better for the community that they're using those drugs in a safer and cleaner way," he told the commission.

Injecting ice is also the preferred method for young users of the drug, according to Centacare Personal Helpers and Mentors Program (PHaMS) and the Youth Drug and Alcohol Service (YDAS) executive manager Cigdem Watson, who supports young people aged 10-19.

"I'm told that it's cost effective, that the high lasts longer," she told the commission.

She said there is also a cohort of young people inhaling ice, however she couldn't provide a percentage of how many are injecting compared to inhaling.

Ms Watson said the risk of injecting is significantly higher than inhaling the drug.

"With injecting ice comes all risk of blood-borne viruses, the risk of using too much of the drug and that kind of thing," she said.

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