cohealth welcomes new funding as part of the Victorian Government’s effort to reduce the harm associated with drug use on people and their families – a hidden health issue in western suburbs like Brimbank.
The Government’s Ice Action Plan recognises fast growing populations and an historic lack of services in the Melbourne’s west is causing people to travel long distances to receive health services for injecting drug
users, or miss out on services altogether.
Harm reduction has been the bi-partisan cornerstone of drug policy in Australia since the 1980s. It sees drug use as a health issue for people and the communities where they live. Harm reduction emphasises
education through support and health promotion, and the provision of clean injecting equipment through needle and syringe programs to avoid transmission of blood borne diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV.
With the implementation of the Ice Action Plan, the government has announced a mix of new and expanded services including cohealth’s Fitzroy, Collingwood, Footscray and Braybrook community health
cohealth currently has a needle and syringe program operating in Footscray six days a week and in Braybrook from Monday to Friday. The cohealth needle and syringe program in Footscray is accessed by
around 250 to 350 people a week. In addition to this, another 100 people a week are accessing the NSP at the Braybrook Community Centre.
Because our philosophy is to design services together with the people who use them, we will be working with our consumers, the community and staff, and the Department of Health and Human Services, to plan how best to utilise the new funding to develop sustainable and responsive services to the needs of people using drug and their families.
Some of the new funding will allow an expansion of cohealth’s needle and syringe programs. Over the past two decades needle and syringe programs have been a public health success story: reducing the spread of blood borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis C; and treating people with the respect and care that they deserve.
Needle and syringe programs are regarded as one of the most successful ever public health interventions and continue to deliver excellent value for every dollar spent. The Department of Health estimated that 25,000 cases of HIV and 21,000 cases of hepatitis C were avoided between 1991 and 2000 as a result of the $130m spent by Australian Government on NSPs – the savings to the health system in avoided treatment costs were estimated to be between $2.4 and $7.7 billion.
 Commonwealth of Australia, 2002. Return on investment in needle and syringe programs in Australia. Canberra:
Commonwealth Department of Health and Aging.