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Minimising harm

29 August 2021

Minimising harm

Lennox Street in Richmond, Melbourne, is the site of the existing Supervised Injection Room, opposite the Salvos.

International Overdose Awareness Day is on 31 August. The day focuses on raising awareness about overdose – what it is, the signs, and how to respond. It’s about educating people to reduce the stigma surrounding drug-related deaths, and it’s also about acknowledging the grief of families and friends who have lost a loved one to an overdose. The day spreads a critical message – deaths from overdose are preventable.

Words Kathryn Wright

The Salvation Army supports the proposed opening of a second Supervised Injecting Room (SIR) in Melbourne, adding to the existing room in Lennox Street, Richmond.

Endorsing these rooms for intravenous drug users has been a consistent stance of the Salvos since the introduction of the first SIR facility next door to Richmond Salvos. It is part of the Salvos’ harm minimisation policy; an official way of working that informs our national service delivery.

Our decision to do our best to minimise the harm to people’s lives and wellbeing, and support similar efforts, is consistent with our belief that there is no full-stop to offering grace and kindness – there is no use-by date for compassion.

Some people may think supporting supervised injection facilities is a risk to reputation or public support, but I think our stance demonstrates the strength of our national values coming to the fore in this conversation.

It shows we can evolve ways of operating to fulfil our values and do the right thing for marginalised people at risk of harm.

You can make a comparison with the origins of the Salvos and our current policies. In Founder William Booth’s day, they didn’t just tackle drug use; they looked at broader community issues. While methodologies and medical and scientific understanding of addiction may change, we still consider issues beyond the use of a drug.

There is always hope. That bears repeating.

We believe that there is always hope that someone will reach out for assistance to break their cycle of misuse and change their lives.

The only person with a drug-related problem who we can’t help is a dead one. If we say, ‘Let’s not help people stay alive’, we are not true to who we are.

Kathryn Wright is the national general manager for the Salvos’ Alcohol and Other Drugs Services.


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