NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord today welcomed a call from the NSW Deputy State Coroner for the Berejiklian Government to host a Drug summit.
It is NSW Labor policy to hold a Drug Summit, but the Berejiklian Government has failed to follow Labor’s lead.
The comments were made by the NSW Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame, who delivered her findings today (March 1) into the accidental drug overdose deaths of five men and a woman – as a result of heroin or multi-drug toxicity in 2016.
NSW Labor – as part of its election platform – will hold a bipartisan drug summit patterned on the historic 1999 one to respond to illicit drug use in the community.
The summit will bring together experts, law enforcement, health professionals, family members and former users to consider evidence-based policy and to develop a way forward that protects lives.
The summit has been proposed by NSW Labor leader Michael Daley and Mr Secord.
The 1999 Drug Summit gave rise to the historic medically supervised injecting room at Kings Cross.
Mr Secord said the “Deputy State Coroner’s comments were highly unusual”, but they were a recognition of the failure of the Berejiklian Government to respond to drug deaths.
“The Berejiklian Government has refused to acknowledge the seriousness of drugs in our community – and ignoring the experts is not the answer.”
"It has been almost 20 years since the original historic 1999 drug summit and the drug landscape has dramatically changed since then. At the time, Sydney was awash with heroin, but today it is other drugs like ice and opioids."
“As the NSW coroner has said – the time for a drug summit is now.
“We are simply losing too many young people to the scourge of drugs in NSW. We also see an increase in the number of opioid deaths and ice use in rural and regional areas.
Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2018 revealed that there were 681 drug deaths in NSW in the most recent reporting year.
NSW Labor has made hosting a drug summit a key element in its strategy to tackle drug abuse, addiction and deaths.
“We owe it to the families of those who have died from drug overdoses to listen carefully and examine the evidence from the experts,” Mr Secord said.
There has not been a major Drug Summit in NSW since the historic 1999 one convened by former Premier Bob Carr almost 20 years ago. Illicit drug use in NSW has changed dramatically since then.
Deputy State Coroner recommendation as follows:
To the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet
- That the Department facilitate and host a NSW Drug Summit, bringing together experts in the field of health, drug addiction and drug law reform, with members of State Parliament, law enforcement, sociologists, researchers, parents, current and former drug users, family support groups and community leaders, to develop drug policy, that is evidence and human rights based, and focused on minimising harm to users, their families, and the community.
- The ambit of the Drug Summit should be wide and should give full and genuine consideration to:
- a) Ways of reducing deaths by drug overdose in NSW b) The best evidence from countries outside Australia as to what works to minimise the risk of deaths by drug overdose c) Decriminalising personal use of drugs, as a mechanism to reduce the harm caused by drug use d) Ways of improving and expanding treatment for drug users e) Reducing the stigma and shame currently associated with drug use f) The availability of alternative non-pharmaceutical pain management options, including, for example, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, and counselling. g) The availability of support mechanisms for family and friends of drug users
- That, following from the Drug Summit, a new ‘Plan of Action’ be developed with a comprehensive ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of community’ approach to the management of illicit drug use and the care of users and their families.