Australian anti-drugs campaigners are angry over the New South Wales Government's decision to make the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre at Kings Cross, Sydney permanent.
The injecting centre has been functioning on a trial basis since 2001 in the area, dubbed the drugs and red light capital of Australia.
New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally says the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre at Kings Cross in inner city Sydney has earned a permanent place in the state's health system.
"It has saved lives; it has reduced disease risk; it has reduced the incidence of public injecting; and quite frankly, it has brought people who live on the margins, who live on the edge into contact with health services and drug treatment services.
"A recent independent evaluation by KPMG found that the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre has successfully managed more than 3,400 overdose related events. It's helped more than 12,000 injecting drug users, referred more than 8,500 drug users to services, and 3,800 of those to drug treatment," the PM told ABC News.
The police are claiming the injecting centre has not resulted in any increase in robbery, property crime or drug offences in the neighbourhood.
Superintendent of Police Tony Crandell said, "Prior to the Medically Supervised Injection Centre opening, there were a number of deaths that were often reported to the Coroner because of overdose or drug abuse. Those deaths occurred in back streets of Kings Cross and in areas where help could not be provided to those poor, unfortunate people. Since the injecting centre, my offices report on those deaths infrequently."
But the secretary of Drug Free Australia, Gary Christian contends the centre is a huge waste of public money. "$23 million for four lives saved is about the same as 3000 rehab spots. You could save thousands of lives with that money," he notes.
He also told Ashley Hall that the very presence of the injecting centre encouraged drug users to take risks with their health, he argues.
"We've spoken to ex-clients of the injecting room who've said that the safety allowed them to experiment with high doses of heroin and poly-drug cocktails. And that was the reason why there are 42 times as many overdoses in injecting rooms as before clients go in there," Mr. Christian maintained.
But Associate Professor Michael Dawson, who's the head of chemistry and forensic science at the University of Technology Sydney, says the medically supervised injecting facility has meant substantial benefits to the community.