Uniting MSIC Anniversary Brings Hope of Drug Reform
The Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (Uniting MSIC) has celebrated 20 years of operation in Sydney’s Kings Cross with an event and presentation of dozens of hearts to NSW parliament.
The hearts were inscribed with personal messages from MSIC clients and staff were formally presented to MPs on the steps of NSW parliament house yesterday.
Uniting MSIC was the first in the English-speaking world and has supervised more than 1.2 million injections without a single drug-related death. Staff have successfully managed 10,611 overdoses and made nearly 20,000 referrals to treatment and support services.
The Moderator of the Uniting Church (NSW & ACT), Rev. Simon Hansford, said the Uniting Church was very proud of Uniting MSIC, of its involvement and of course what the service has achieved in the last two decades.
“The work of Uniting MSIC is hospitality at its very best, it is restorative, we welcome people exactly as they are … it is the right thing to do,” Rev. Hansford said.
Rev. Hansford also encouraged those in the church to raise their voice to advocate for a government to take a health approach to drug law reform in the same way that Uniting MSIC operated.
Medical Director, Dr Marianne Jauncey, said the 20-year record spoke for itself. “There is nobody sensible left who doesn’t acknowledge that supervised injecting centres save lives, make a difference, take injecting off the street and the question remains why there’s only one.”
“It’s an enormous privilege to work with our clients who are some of the most inspiring people I know. Sydney should be proud that we have a place where some of our most disadvantaged and stigmatised citizens can go and receive health care with dignity and compassion.”
The anniversary gathering in Sydney raised questions about the need for other harm reduction services in the State, along with decriminalisation – which has been recommended by the Deputy Coroner and the Special Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’.
Health Minister, Brad Hazzard told the crowd, “I think the decriminalisation has challenges for some I’m certainly of the view, one of those, that thinks criminalising people for the personal use of drugs is completely counterproductive.”
Former NSW Premier, Bob Carr, who was in power when Uniting MSIC opened said politicians should have confidence to have an honest dialogue about drug use, drug testing and harm minimisation.
“If I was Premier today I would be confident with saying to the community, ‘Look, we might just experiment with this… as the lesser of two evils”
“We took the advice of people in the field.. if we keep people alive… there will come a time in their lives when they’ll give it up.”
It’s a sentiment that holds true for people like Kevin Street. The former client of Uniting MSIC now volunteers at Uniting and produces a newsletter for the service.
“Without Uniting MSIC many of us would not be alive today. It has helped put thousands on a path to recovery. I’m very grateful to the politicians, police and media that supported Uniting MSIC 20 years ago and I hope more people in the future will be lucky enough to have the support I have had in the long journey of recovering from drug addiction.”
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