FFDLR Newsletter May 2022

 Next FFDLR meeting via Zoom:
Thursday 26th May 7.30pm

Zoom meeting invite
  Some discussion at the meeting on how the election results might affect Drug Law Reform  as well as discussion on the future of FFDLR
Membership renewal – Thank you to all who have renewed their 2022 membership. If you haven’t done so and would like to contribute, fees are  $20 or $5 concession for 12 months. You may make a direct credit into the FFDLR account which is with the Service One Bank. Donations are always welcome.
BSB: 801009
Account Number: 001194974
Please remember to reference your name    Future of FFDLR 
For sometime the FFDLR Committee has sadly become aware that the human resources needed to continue the group has been reducing meaning we may not be unable to continue the group or we will have to reduce the tasks undertaken. This is something we will all need to think about over the next few months. We will keep the group operational at least until the next AGM which will be in November. The May meeting will provide opportunity to open discussion and gauge the sense of commitment. 

When FFDLR began in 1995 ‘drug law reform’ was little spoken about in polite company. There was very little if any support available to parents and the support that was available was usually based on the ‘drug free’ principal. Parents were often advised to ‘kick their kids out’. The shame and stigma was so great. Now, almost three decades later even though we may not think so at times, things have changed, and we of FFDLR would like to think we had a little bit to do with these changes. Drug law reform is now spoken about in many different circles and is seen as a normal subject of conversation at any dinner party. Lacking still of course is the bravery of politicians to get behind it. But there again more politicians are finding their mettle as can be seen amongst many of The Greens, Fiona Patton in Victoria and Michael Pettersson in the ACT Assembly.

The shame and stigma has also decreased although not as much as we would like. The value of treatment over law enforcement has also become a force to be reckoned with. Just look at Uniting’s Fair Treatment Campaign. We still need to get law enforcement on side and that I think is a difficult task for the future.

We were a bit of a lone voice back in 1995 but now many other individuals, organisations and treatment services see the value of revising the drug laws. So, if our organisation is forced to close or wind back there are others who will continue the voice for the need for drug law reform. But perhaps not the specific voice of families.    
Support Don’t Punish Events

  During the last week of June, more than 150 cities across the world will take part in the global advocacy campaign ‘Support. Don’t Punish’, calling on governments to enact drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. 
There is a better way to reduce the harm caused by drugs and alcohol.

Events that you can attend are:
Thursday June 23 – Is it time to legalise drugs forum hosted by Stan Grant at the Wesley Conference Centre in Sydney.
Saturday 25 June – Double Movie Feature: the Fix & Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis starring Austin Butler at the Astor Theatre in St Kilda, Melbourne
Register Here
Rethink Addiction campaign

  One in four Australians will struggle with alcohol, other drugs or gambling in their lifetime, yet many will wait years, even decades, to get the help they need because of stigma and shame. That’s why we need to Rethink Addiction – to tackle stigma and ensure no one delays getting the help they need and deserve. LEARN MORE

Register for the event
National Convention at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra 12 – 14 September      21st Anniversary of MSIC 
Bill and Marion were pleased to have received an invitation to attend this celebration and join with others who have similar understanding for the need for harm reduction if not drug law reform.

Friday 6 May 2022 marked 21 years of the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) in King’s Cross with the coming of age being recognised by Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, handing over the keys to the city in a ceremony on Thursday 5 May.

The following is taken from the Uniting website.
Over the last 21 years the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross has been integral in transforming 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.

MSIC’s Medical Director, Dr Marianne Jauncey, is using the coming of age to call for overdose prevention rooms to be co-located at needle syringe services around the State.

She acknowledges that another facility like the one in Kings Cross is not necessarily what is needed in other areas. But overdose deaths continue to go up, every single year, she says. Why don’t we use the infrastructure that is already set up? “Coming of age also carries responsibility,” Dr Jauncey said.

“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 with its 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.

Over the past 21 years that MSIC has been operating it 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, seen an increase in support from local businesses, police and residents, collaborated on a diverse range of research and training programs with partner organisations, and assisted Uniting to actively campaign for drug law reform.

Emma Maiden, Head of Advocacy for Uniting said “We have so much more work that we need to do but are calling on NSW government once again to be a leader in drug treatment and harm reduction.
“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   A group of people holding a plaque

Description automatically generated with low confidence Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney hands the city of Sydney “Keys To The City” to Marianne Jauncey, Director of the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre on its 21st Anniversary      Progress on the ACT Assembly’s Decriminalisation Bill 
As required by the ACT Assembly on 2nd December 2021, Minister Emma Davidson reported back to the Assembly on 4th May 2022 on the Mental Health Services including mental health, alcohol and other drug use disorders.

A short extract from Ms Davidson’s speech:

As the Minister for Mental Health, I am committed to continuing to work closely with my colleague the Minister for Health to ensure that our ACT services are closely integrated and able to provide the right care, at the right time, in the right place. This cooperation also will be important as the ACT government progresses our nation-leading harm minimisation approach to alcohol and other drugs policy, which is a key tenet of the Drug Strategy Action Plan but is also a key theme of the proposed Drugs of Dependence (Personal Use) Amendment Bill 2021, currently standing in the name of Mr Pettersson.
I note that the debate on this bill has been delayed until after this update. While I will leave that particular discussion until then, I would like to say that I hope that this statement and the upcoming debate on the amendment bill will go some way to alleviating the stigma that people with co-occurring mental illness and alcohol or other drug issues experience and are exposed to. Issues of stigma and discrimination can lead to people with these co-occurring issues not being able to seek treatment or being refused services.
Read the full speech here      Pill testing in the ACT 
It was a great disappointment that at the last minute pill testing at the Groovin the Moo concert to be held 24th April in the ACT was cancelled because insurers backed out just days before the event.  Both organisers and the ACT Government supported the service which allows people to check whether their drugs contain dangerous substances without exposing themselves to law enforcement. Thus, not only potentially preventing a person from taking a dangerous drug but bringing them into contact with a team who can provide medical advice.

Mr Gino Vumbuca responded, “They’ve declined at the last minute to proceed with insuring us, and requiring a heap of other information that was impossible to provide them with at such short notice, effectively terminating our service”.

FFDLR strongly support Harm Reduction Australia and Pill testing Australia to continue with their advocacy for more responsible drug policies.

The ACT Government has committed to pilot Australia’s first ever fixed-site pill testing in its 2021-2022 budget. It will fund a six month pilot service to “determine service demand and community support” for a future permanent fixed site in the Territory.      Pill Testing in New Zealand 
  On Thursday 28 April 2022 I attended via Zoom a meeting organised by the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society (ANZFSS), in particular the Christchurch branch, in which speakers from “Know Your Stuff NZ” (website knowyourstuff.nz) spoke about pill testing in New Zealand.

It was attended by about 30 zoom participants.  Each of us could see the presenter, from the ANZFSS, and one or two speakers from Know Your Stuff NZ.  We could not see those who attended in person in Christchurch. While the speakers spoke there was a powerpoint presentation running on about half the
viewers’ screens.  KYSNZ has been operating for seven years and has tested over six thousand pill samples, at 99 events.  They claim to have detected 600-700 dangerous substances in the samples. Results are given to their clients verbally, not in writing. Presumably insurance is not a problem.

The KYSNZ website discusses dangerous combinations of drugs.  It also issue alerts when dangerous substances appear to be common in a particular area or drug. All in all it does a marvellous job and saves lives. Both Helen Clark, a former Prime Minister, and Jacinta Adern, the current PM, have complimented the work of KYSNZ, which incidentally, was recently legalised! KYSNZ has over 100 volunteers.

A fair bit of the presentation had a forensic flavour and went into details of the chemistry of various drugs.  The methods and equipment used to detect various drugs were described.

The testing report on the  KYSNZ website (https://knowyourstuff.nz/our-results-2/testing-results/testing-reports/2020-2021-testing-report/) shows that when a test comes back showing that the pill is not as was presumed most users do not take it. Pill testing saves lives. 

Brock Bryce