Message from the Chair & CEO
Worldwide there is now a greater shift towards more sensible approaches to substance use rather than the combative policies of the past. Growing acknowledgement of the overdose crisis in the USA saw it declared a public health emergency. Norway moved to decriminalise drugs for personal use, inspired by the success of the Portuguese model. In the Philippines, the failed drug war approach and its disregard for human rights reached a new nadir as extra judicial killings took thousands of lives. In Australia, the National Drug Strategy continues a theoretical balance between the pillars of supply, demand and harm reduction. However, harm reduction receives less than 3 per cent of the funding, a missed opportunity to address the needs of people affected by continued drug use. In Victoria over many years, local community members and experts have been calling for the trial of a medically supervised injecting centre (MSIC) in Richmond, Melbourne’s heroin overdose epicentre. In late 2017, the Victorian Government announced a trial would commence in Richmond. The MSIC trial is an opportunity for health professionals to better engage with people who use drugs at their most vulnerable. It should save lives. Sydney’s MSIC has been evaluated many times since opening in 2001, with the most recent report (May 2015) stating they have supervised 965,000 injections and managed more than 6000 overdoses with no fatalities. Penington Institute continues to push for a more enlightened approach to substance use. We had many highlights and we invite you to read about these in this Review. We continued to increase recognition of the growing tragedy of drug overdose – in Australia and around the world. More than 100,000 people die of a drug-related accidental overdose each year around the world – this is a conservative estimate. Our leadership on this issue, though International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) and other activities included:
– The 2017 IOAD – a campaign with close to 500 registered (many more not registered) events around the world, significant growth in engagement online and local outcomes for event organisers including increased access to naloxone – the opioid overdose reversal medication. – Releasing Penington Institute’s seminal publication Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2017. The extent of overdose resulting from pharmaceutical medication misuse and the impact of the opioid fentanyl received considerable coverage in Australia. – Publishing the Not Just Naloxone report which examined innovative local and international approaches to reducing the harm associated with drug use, highlighting that there are many effective and yet unrealised opportunities in Australia. – Providing extensive workforce development to frontline professionals, linking the latest research with practical support. Late in 2017 we welcomed the YEAH organisation as a new program of Penington Institute. YEAH – originally Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS – focuses on youth led sexual health through face-to-face peer education and a major online community. YEAH is a great opportunity to expand the work of Penington Institute, to learn from and empower young people on alcohol and other drugs, as well as sexual health. To conclude, we would like to thank our Patrons, Board, funders, supporters, volunteers and staff for their involvement in 2017. We would particularly like to recognise the work of our volunteers. As a not-for-profit organisation with only 12 full-time equivalent staff, Penington Institute relies heavily on the contribution of volunteers. From our hundreds of volunteer International Overdose Awareness Day organisers around the world to our interns and advisory group members, thank you.
Ms Kathryn Greiner AO Chair and Mr John Ryan Chief Executive Officer