Shocking photos show children exposed to rampant drug abuse and blood-filled needles in a controversial injection room where “meth and heroin zombies” roam free.
It’s the seedy underbelly of a suburb in central Melbourne, where the average house price is over $1,400,000, but where junkies inject in public.
The Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR), where health professionals monitor narcotics use to prevent overdoses, has been running in Richmond since 2018 and has been made permanent after a five-year trial.
Richmond resident Sharon Neven, 58, told Daily Mail Australia that children attending Richmond West Primary School, across the street from the MSIR, are exposed to drug use and its consequences on a daily basis.
“There are people who inject publicly in our children’s parks. There are people who inject in front of us,” she said.
“Kids still have to walk to and from school, so they still have to walk past this behavior, naked people, people running around with their tops off and the kids saying ‘he’s on ice’ and (for) one nodding ‘he is on heroin’.
A Richmond resident says schoolchildren are regularly exposed to shooting users around the controversial Medically Supervised Injecting Room
In a letter sent to then Secretary of State for Education James Merlino in April 2021, Richmond West parents, some of whom said they were refugees, gave gruesome testimonies of what their children had been exposed to.
“After two lockdowns in one week, my daughter is traumatized,” one person wrote.
She needs professional guidance. She is terrified to come to school.
“My older kids take her to school; she grips their hands so tightly as they walk it hurts.’
A man and two children watch what appears to be an addict shooting in the street near the spray room
One resident said their children came home from school and said to her, “Mom, we saw a man put his scribble in a lady’s mouth.”
Another wrote: “My child saw two women having a physical fight through the school gate and told me ‘a lady’s wig came off’ – it wasn’t a wig, she witnessed a woman’s hair being pulled out.”
Sharon Neven, a Richmond resident who has lived in the area for 23 years, says the neighborhood had deteriorated since the injection room opened
In early April, Ms Neven saw a discarded syringe filled with blood in the bushes opposite the school and called the number the injection room has available for needle collection, but they did not answer as it was after 5pm.
She then called the Yarra City Council number for syringe collection, which, despite being advertised as an after-hours service, was answered only with a recorded message instructing her to call the next business day.
Despite repeated calls to the injection room and council, the needle remained in place from Thursday until it was finally collected on Monday, when two other syringes were added.
A blood-filled needle found by Mrs Neven sitting under the bush opposite the school
The MSIR, which is run by the local North Richmond Community Health Centre, was declared a permanent facility by the Andrews government in early March.
“This is changing lives and saving lives,” said Victorian Prime Minister Dan Andrews when announcing the current status of the room.
The next day, after Mrs. Neven reported the used syringe to the injection room, she saw that it was still there and two others had joined it
He claimed the room had “successfully managed nearly 6,000 overdoses” since opening in June 2018 and had saved 63 lives.
The figures come from the Ryan Review, chaired by Mr. John Ryan, which was presented to the state government in February.
The estimate of 63 lives saved comes from extrapolating the number of injections supervised by the center that would normally end in an overdose.
One drug user told the Ryan Review that the area around the injection room was so scary that he didn’t like going there
While the number of ambulance calls within a 1 km radius of the injection room for overdoses had almost halved, according to the review, official figures showed an increase in the number of incidents requiring paramedics.
There were 61 ambulance calls to Lennox St in the year before the chamber opened, compared to 123 in 2019, which was a 101 per cent increase in two years.
The Ryan Review acknowledges that the MSIR has had almost no impact in reducing Richmond’s drug market.
The review also found that the area around injecting was so threatening that even addicts were afraid to go there.
Drug user Jerry told the review, ‘You don’t feel safe walking down Lennox Street to the room. There are also people who try to rip you off or… rob you. Like I said, you always have to keep your wits about you.’
This man was photographed outside the school in West Richmond in 2019, with some parents saying their children are traumatized by what they witnessed
Ms Neven, who has lived in Richmond for 23 years, said crime has gotten worse since the injection room opened.
“We had our cars broken into, our homes broken into, and a man across the road was punched in the face by a drug user,” she said.
“No one is doing anything about it because they know if they get caught with any amount of money they’ll be let go.”
A man and a child walk past a figure lying near the controversial Richmond injection room
Ms Neven claimed that police, unable to make drug-related arrests within 300 meters of the injection center, largely ignored the problem.
“They’re driving their bikes, they’re driving their cars, they’re like, ‘Well, what can we do, they’re not going to put them in jail,'” she said.
“The police are doing nothing. The drug dealers win.’
Ms Neven said mothers could sometimes be seen injecting in front of their children
A review found that ambulance calls for overdoses had decreased in the injection room council area, but other figures showed that the total number of emergency services had increased
A spokesman for the injection room told Daily Mail Australia the service has “removed barriers to critical health and social support 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 Health Secretary has been contacted for comment.