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Uniting offers expertise in pill-testing trial

15 January 2019

Pill testing will help reduce drug-related deaths rather than create more harm, according to the operator of Australia’s first Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross, Uniting NSW.ACT.

Uniting NSW.ACT Executive Director Tracey Burton says young people, parents, families and communities are relying on authorities to take all possible steps to help eliminate drug-related deaths at music festivals and pill testing, while not a single panacea, is an important component to help save young lives.

Burton last week took the bold step of writing to both the Premier and the leader of the Opposition offering Uniting networks, resources and know-how to establish a pill-testing trial and other reforms in NSW, in collaboration with others.

“In establishing the Centre in Kings Cross in 2001 amid controversy, NSW political leaders took bold and courageous actions to save lives. And we are asking them to do it again.”

Since opening in May 2001, Uniting MSIC has supervised more than one million injections. There have been more than 8,000 overdoses but most importantly there has not been a single death.  Its success helped change the narrative of harm reduction as Uniting MSIC is now widely accepted by police, politicians and the public. Importantly, the centre provides referral services to counselling and health services to address issues which create dependence and associated problems.

“The Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre was founded upon the principle that we must do all we can do to keep people alive, first and foremost – and that principle remains true no matter your politics, morals or religious beliefs. We all love our families and our friends, and we want them to be safe.

“We do not condone taking pills in the same way we do not condone drug injection; the primary goal in both instances is keeping people safe,” Mrs Burton stated.

“We’re not talking about an either or, pill testing must be considered part of the solution because too many young lives have been lost while we continue to debate the issues and cling to ineffective law and order policies.

“There is enough evidence to, at least, create a trial of pill testing and to run it prudently and evaluate its effectiveness. Trials in the UK and in the ACT have shown that pill testing is likely to help reduce drug-related deaths including through education as, once informed about pill contents, large proportions are discarded on site,” she said.

The offer of expertise, experience and resources from Uniting NSW.ACT follows the launch of its Fair Treatment campaign last year which has since garnered the support of more than 58 organisations including legal, medical community and church groups. The campaign aims to improve funding for drug treatment services and harm minimisation. It also includes a call for a drug treatment summit in NSW.


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