Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney handed Uniting’s Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) the keys to the city in a ceremony on Thursday 5 May 2022. This was to mark the centre turning 21 years old on May 6.
Over the last 21 years, the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross has transformed the streets of the Cross. They have reversed nearly 11,000 overdoses, taking these life-threatening incidents off the streets and into a health care service.
Unmet Community Needs
MSIC’s Medical Director, Dr Marianne Jauncey, is using the milestone to call for overdose prevention rooms to be collocated at needle syringe services around NSW. “Coming of age also carries responsibility,” she said.
Dr Jauncey acknowledged that another facility like the one in Kings Cross is not necessarily what is needed in other areas. But equally, overdose deaths continue to go up, every single year. She wondered why we don’t we use the infrastructure already set up?
“Overdose deaths are occurring all around NSW. These places have services that hand out clean injecting equipment, which reduces transmission of blood-borne infections like hepatitis C and HIV. But right now, if those services identify someone at imminent risk of overdose who is going to inject in a public space, they cannot prevent that from happening. They are forced to send the person away into the shadows for the local community to manage.
As a medical professional, I believe we have a duty of care. If some of these existing facilities have the resources and capacity for a small overdose prevention room, they should be allowed to try it out. It’s about saving lives.”
MSIC was the first supervised injecting facility in the Southern hemisphere and operated as a trial for nearly a decade. Over the past 21 years, the service has won widespread acceptance from local businesses, police and the community. It has reduction in public injecting, discards and ambulance call outs.
Dr Jauncey said the past 21 years haven’t come without challenges. “We’ve supervised more than 1.24 million injections, managed 10,890 overdoses without a death and provided 20, 420 referrals to treatment and other services.
“Saving someone from dying can be as easy as breathing for them and giving a medical antidote. The team at MSIC administer oxygen and, if required, a medicine called naloxone to reverse the central nervous system depressant effects of heroin. No one has died at MSIC in 21 years, and we plan to keep it that way. Every life saved prevents a family from losing a loved one to overdose,” said Dr Jauncey.
No one has died at MSIC in 21 years, and we plan to keep it that way. Every life saved prevents a family from losing a loved one to overdoseDr Marianne Jauncey, Medical Director of MSIC
Throughout the years it has been operating, MSIC has achieved more than just operational success. The team run an annual art exhibition of client work; have introduced an onsite mental health coordinator, achieved bipartisan political support and have seen an increase in support from local businesses, police and residents. They have also collaborated with partner organisations on a diverse range of research and training programs, and assisted in the Uniting campaign for drug law reform.
Need for Reform
Emma Maiden, Head of Advocacy for Uniting said “We have so much more work that we need to do but are calling on the NSW government once again to be a leader in drug treatment and harm reduction.
We are calling on the NSW government once again to be a leader in drug treatment and harm reductionEmma Maiden, Uniting NSW.ACT Head of Advocacy
“Uniting MSIC was established after the NSW government implemented the recommendations of the 1999 Drug Summit. The fact that we have had no deaths at Uniting MSIC shows what can be achieved if we follow the evidence. We are calling on the current government to listen to the experts, which includes those with lived experience, and introduce more overdose prevention rooms, as well as the other reforms from the Ice Inquiry,” said Ms Maiden.
Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney said “We’re proud to grant the Keys of the City of Sydney to the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross to commemorate its 21 years of service to the Sydney community in saving lives, helping injecting drug users address problematic drug use and taking injecting off the streets. We commend the many people whose courage and foresight ensured that the Centre became a reality and continued to operate, often in the face of government doubts and ever hostile opposition.”
For more information on the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre visit uniting.org/msic
Head over to the Fair Treatment Facebook page to watch the celebrations!
Originally published in Insights Magazine on May 9 2022.