This week the Andrews Labor Government introduced the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment (Medically Supervised Injecting Centre) Bill 2017 (the Bill) to the Victorian Legislative Assembly. The purpose of this Bill is to tackle the growing number of ice and heroin related deaths in Victoria. As stated by Mr Foley, Minister for Mental Health, in his second reading speech:
“Victoria continues to be impacted by the adverse effects of ice, heroin, alcohol and other drugs. A key issue is the growing number of overdose deaths amongst injecting and other drug users.
Drug addiction is complex and there is no single solution and different people need different kinds of treatment and support. In response, the government has made a significant investment in a multi-pronged approach to alcohol and other drug harm reduction.
As part of its comprehensive range of measures designed to minimise drug harm and promote community safety, the government has decided to trial a medically supervised injection centre at North Richmond Community Health.
The key aim of a medically supervised injecting centre is to facilitate a safer setting for injecting and greater referrals of those people who use drugs to treatment, support and other services.”
The Bill, which is still before the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, was introduced as a mechanism for the introduction of a medically supervised injecting centre in North Richmond of Melbourne. The injecting room is set to be begin operating in June 2018. Alongside this, the Government proposes to appoint a committee of representatives from the community and health sector, who will review and oversee the effectiveness of the medically supervised injecting room. This panel would report back annually with the first report due in June 2019.
"A medically supervised injecting centre is one of a broader range of measures required to address this significant public health issue. Without action, deaths and other harms from drug overdoses will continue to have a devastating, costly and avoidable effect on the Victorian community.
This bill establishes a comprehensive legal framework for the licensing and operation of a medically supervised injecting centre for a trial period. It incorporates appropriate safeguards to ensure that the needs and concerns of local government, relevant stakeholders and the community are addressed." Mr Foley, Minister for Health (Second reading speech).
The proposed medically supervised injecting room scheme takes the form of a number of amendments to be made to the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (the Principal Act). The major amendment which is proposed by the Bill is the insertion of a new Part IIA into the Principal Act in section 7 of the Bill, which allows for the “trial of medically supervised injecting centre”. As per the proposed section 55A:
“The object of this Part is to provide for the trial of a medically supervised injecting centre as part of a scheme that aims—
In proposing the creation of the medically supervised injecting centre, the Bill creates two positions to be held at the centre of “director and supervisor”. The director will be a licensed medical practitioner who will be appointed to [Principal Act, s 55B(1)(a)]:
The supervisor to be appointed to the centre will also be a licensed medical practitioner who will be appointed to [s 55B(2)(a)]:
The new proposed Part IIA then goes on to instate a licence system for the medically supervised injecting centre which allows for various protocols in licencing, thus insuring the validity of the services of the medical centre. These protocols include: internal management protocols (s 55E); conditions of medically supervised injecting centre licence (s 55H); disciplinary action for contravening licence condition or internal management protocols (s 55I); and secretary power to revoke licence (s 55J).
One other step that the Bill proposes is in the form of s 55K of the inserted Part IIA. This provision exempts clients of the centre from criminal liability. Section 55L further exempts staff of the centre from criminal liability, thus ensuring the safety of staff and clients from criminal prosecution.
s 55K(1): A person who is a client of the licensed medically supervised injecting centre who uses, supplies, possesses or administers a drug of dependence that is an injecting centre drug in a permitted quantity of injecting centre drug in the centre is exempt from liability for an offence against Part V or the regulations which is constituted by that use, supply, possession or administration of that drug of dependence.
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Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment (Medically Supervised Injecting Centre) Bill 2017: Bill, Explanatory Memorandum and Second Reading Speeches available from Timebase LawOne.
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