THE doctor behind Sydney's supervised heroin injecting room says it's only a matter of time before Melbourne follows suit and has its own centre.
Dr Alex Wodak helped establish Australia's first needle and syringe program and was instrumental in setting up the medically supervised injecting centre in Kings Cross.
That service, opened in 2001, was the first in the English-speaking world and remains the only service of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
Dr Wodak said there had been a positive reaction from residents and traders to the initiative.
He believes areas like Footscray and Richmond would benefit from a similar service.
"When you have these drug markets spilling into neighbourhoods and local residents and businesses accustomed to seeing people injecting in public places, something needs to be done."
Extensive annual surveys in the Kings Cross area show almost 80percent of residents and 70percent of businesses support the service.
Dr Wodak said medically supervised injecting centres could have a significant role in dealing with heroin abuse as a medical issue and in cleaning up the streets.
For many users, it was the first step towards linking with other services and working on issues such as poor health and homelessness.
"The reason this is happening in Footscray and surrounding suburbs is because it's a major drug market," Dr Wodak said.
He was in Footscray last Wednesday to take part in a public debate at Victoria University organised by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).
SSDP president Nicole Pitliangas said the debate was designed to bring together researchers, educators, politicians and families directly affected by heroin addiction.
Maribyrnong mayor John Cumming, who attended the debate, said the council had no formal position on establishing a supervised injecting centre. "However, it is open to exploring various options and evidence to prevent harm from drug use and to minimise the broader impact on the safety of the community."
The council operates a service to remove syringes from public areas throughout Maribyrnong.
Residents can call the service hotline on 96880500 to report discarded syringes.
- Benjamin Miller