CHIEF Minister Katy Gallagher hopes to make a decision on the proposed needle and syringe program at Alexander Maconochie Centre by the end of the year.
The call comes as the Government released Michael Moore’s report “Balancing Access and Safety: Meeting the challenge of blood borne viruses in prison”, that makes seven recommendations, including making it law for the AMC to establish a needle and syringe program.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said she found this was one of the most difficult areas of policy she has had to deal with.
“From my own point of view, how do we work with people to address their concerns, and I think that’s the work that I asked Michael to look at specifically,” she said. “Some of those issues were against the law but one of the recommendations is change the law, make it the law that there be a NSP at Alexander McConohie Centre.
“Surely addresses the issues of it being against the law, if by making it the law.
“That is one recommendation we need to consult further on that’s another issue we need to speak to the other members of assembly about it’s another issue we need to speak to prison staff but also the health staff.”
She said 65 per cent of prisoners at AMC had Hepatitis C and there was anecdotal evidence of dirty needles and home-made needles being shared among inmates.
A six week consultation period starting today, will allow stakeholders to submit feedback into the report.
The Chief Minister said it was hard to say when a final decision would be made but would like to have made a decision by the end of the year.
The Moore report proposes a choice of three models for a NSP. The first plan would see a distribution of needles and syringes on a ‘one for one’ exchange basis conducted from the Hume Health Centre by an external agency.
If there was evidence of inadequacy from the external agency in model one, the exhange would be run by ACT Health staff.
The third model would see instead a “one-for-one” exchange basis through a series on vending machines located in convenient and unmonitored locations. The support of these machinces would be conducted by ACT Health staff or by an external agency.
ACT Greens acting spokesperson for health and corrections, Caroline Le Couteur said the Greens have long supported the trial of a NSP and had issued a discussion paper and conducted a consultation last year.
“A needle and syringe program run of the Health Centre will not only ensure a decrease in blood borne viruses amongst detainees but is also likely to lead to a decrease in drug use, as detainees become engaged in health based drug addiction services and are more likely to try and stop using,” she said.
“The ALP has in the last year come to support the trial of a needle and syringe program. We hope that corrections staff can work in a collaborative manner to allow the trial to progress.”
The consultation period opens today and will close on September 8. To view the report visit www.health.act.gov.au/communityconsultation