Shocking photos show children exposed to rampant drug abuse and blood-filled needles around a controversial injecting room where ‘meth and heroin zombies’ roam free.
It’s the seedy underbelly of an inner Melbourne suburb where the median price for a house is over $1,400,000 but has junkies injecting in public view.
The Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR), where health professionals monitor narcotics use to prevent overdoses, has been running in Richmond since 2018 and after a five-year trial period has been made permanent.
Richmond resident Sharon Neven, 58, told Daily Mail Australia that children attending the Richmond West Primary School, across the street from the MSIR, are exposed daily to drug use and its consequences.
‘There are people who are publicly injecting in our kids’ parks. There are people injecting in front of our faces,’ she said.
‘Kids still have to walk to and from school, so they still have to walk past this behaviour, people naked, people running around with their tops off and the kids go ‘he’s on ice’ and (for) one nodding off ‘he’s on heroin’.
A Richmond resident says school children are regularly exposed to users shooting shooting up around the controversial Medically Supervised Injecting Room
In a letter sent to then state education minister James Merlino in April 2021 Richmond West parents, some who said they were refugees, provided horrifying testimonies of what their children had been exposed to.
‘After two lockdowns in one week, my daughter is traumatised,’ one wrote.
‘She is needing professional counselling. She is terrified to come to school.
‘My older children walk her to school; she grips their hands so tightly on the walk it hurts them.’
A man and two children watch what appears to be addict shooting up in the street near the injecting room
One local said their kids came home from school and told her, ‘mum, we saw a man put his doodle in a lady’s mouth’.
Another recorded: ‘My child saw two women having a physical fight through the school fence and told me ‘one lady’s wig came off’ – it wasn’t a wig, she was witnessing a woman’s hair being pulled out.’
Richmond resident Sharon Neven, who has lived in the area for 23 years, says the neighbourhood had deteriorated since the injecting room opened
In early April, Ms Neven spied a blood-filled discarded syringe in bushes across from the school and rang the number the injecting room provides for them to collect needles, but they did not pick up because it was after 5pm.
She then rang the Yarra City Council’s number for syringe collection, which despite being advertised as an after-hours service, was only answered with a recorded message instructing her to call the next business day.
Despite repeated calls to the injecting room and council the needle remained in place from Thursday until it was finally picked up on Monday, by which time two other syringes had joined it.
A blood-filled needle that was found by Ms Neven sitting below bushed opposite the school
The MSIR, which is run by the local North Richmond Community Health Centre, was declared a permanent facility in early March by the Andrews government.
‘This is changing lives and saving lives,’ Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said in announcing the room’s ongoing status.
The next day after Ms Neven reported the used syringe to the injecting room she saw that it was still there and had been joined by two others
He claimed the room had ‘successfully managed almost 6,000 overdoses’ since it opened in June 2018 and had saved 63 lives.
The figures come from the Ryan Review, chaired by Mr John Ryan, that was delivered to the state government in February.
Its estimate of 63 lives saved comes from extrapolating how many of the injections overseen by the centre would normally end in overdose.
One drug user told the Ryan Review that the area around the injecting room was so scary he didn’t like going there
While the review stated ambulance call-outs within a 1km radius of the injecting room for overdoses had almost halved, official figures showed an increase in overall incidents requiring paramedics.
There were 61 ambulance call-outs to to Lennox St in the year before the room opened compared to 123 in 2019, which was a 101 per cent increase over two years.
The Ryan Review acknowledges the MSIR has shown almost no impact in curbing Richmond’s drug market.
The review also found the area around the injecting was so menacing even addicts were afraid to go there.
Drug user Jerry told the review: ‘It doesn’t make you feel safe as you’re walking down Lennox Street to the room. Also, there’s people trying to rip you off or… rob you. As I say, you’ve just got to have your wits about you all the time.’
This man was photographed outside the West Richmond school in 2019 with some parents saying their children have been traumatised by what they have seen
Ms Neven, who has lived in Richmond for 23 years, said crime had grown worse since the injecting room opened.
‘We have our cars broken into, our homes broken into a guy across the road got punched in the face by a drug user,’ she said.
‘No one does anything about it because they know if they are caught with an amount they are let go.’
A man and a child walk past a figure lying near the controversial injecting room in Richmond
Ms Neven claimed police, who cannot make any drug-related arrests within 300 metres of the injecting centre, were largely ignoring the problem.
‘They ride their bikes around, they drive their cars around, they say ‘well what can we do, they’re not going to put them into prison’,’ she said.
‘The police are doing nothing. The drug dealers are winning.’
Ms Neven said that mothers could sometimes been seen injecting within sight of their children
A review found that ambulance call-outs for overdoses had decreased in the injecting room’s council area but other figures showed that overall call-out for emergency services had gone up
A spokesperson for the injecting room told Daily Mail Australia that the service has ‘removed barriers to critical health and social supports for people who need them’.
‘Critically, more than 700 people have now started specialist treatment through the MSIR to help manage their addiction’ the spokesperson said.
The Victorian minister for Health has been contacted for comment.