Knox needle exchange project closer

Nanjing Night Net

THE final steps towards a needle exchange program in Knox are almost complete with a decision due by the end of the month.

Responses to the proposed Knox Community Health Service project in Ferntree Gully closed on January 24.

Information and consultation packs were delivered to 1500 residents. While all results from the consultation are yet to be collated, early figures show there was a 7per cent negative response.

KCHS chief executive officer Chris Potter said there were a number of different ideas in the responses, with three main areas of concern raised, including the program’s close proximity to St John the Baptist Parish Primary School, the concept of a needle exchange program, and putting money into drug services.

About 20 of the negative responses received were ‘standard response’ forms that had been pre-made against the proposed project.

Mr Potter said the packs were also delivered to 73 businesses in the area. Only five of these responses were negative.

There were also some concerns regarding incidents of hepatitis C from syringes, however Mr Potter said a needle exchange program was the “most effective harm minimisation strategy”.

He said there were similar needle exchange programs in Maroondah and Monash, where statistics for hepatitis C were lower than in Knox.

Health Department figures show that in Monash between 2008-11 there were an average of 1.2 cases of hepatitis C per 100,000 people, while in Maroondah there were 1.9 cases. In Knox, the figure was 3.3.

Mr Potter also addressed the concerns of those who did not think public money should be spent on drug addicts.

“People who use drugs are a part of the community and they need services provided just like any other person.” He said all respondents would be kept informed.