Photo captures moment children witnessed drug overdose
HAVING covered issues of drug use in Richmond for more than eight years, Monday had to be one of the worst days I've witnessed in the sheer volume of brazen drug-taking in public spaces.
While on assignment for the afternoon in Richmond, canvassing the community on the impacts of drug use, it felt like every corner I turned down there was evidence of drug use.
At 3.50pm I went down a street that runs directly to the supervised injecting room to find a shirtless man stumbling into parked cars and the front fences of houses. He would later give his name as John, 51, who had been taking heroin for more than 30 years. Within seconds, his eyes rolled back in his head and he fell to the ground.
Another man emerged from the alley and attempted to keep him awake, at one stage resorting to dragging him along the footpath. I immediately called triple-0, requesting an ambulance.
It took only moments for paramedics to arrive, but before they did one of the more shocking scenes I have witnessed in relation to this issue happened.
A little girl around prep age and another younger girl were being walked to their home, near where John was overdosing.
I won't forget the looks on the girls' faces as the man was convulsing.
After about 30 minutes, John was up and refused an offer from paramedics to go to hospital.
I identified myself to John and asked to interview him.
"I've overdosed five times in the last month," he said.
When I asked if he had tried to get off heroin, he said: "No, why would I? I have slowed it down a lot."
"I've been on heroin for 30 years. When you slow it down you drink and you have a shot every now and again once a week, once a fortnight and you just saw the result."
When asked what he would say to the little girls' mother, he said: "I would say I'm very sorry."
"It's not something you wanna produce on the street, I thought I had a shot in the back alley."
Why didn't he use the injecting room: "My brother didn't wanna go there … maybe he wanted me to die in the street.
"That's where I normally go, it's very good, very safe and they're good people. It's a good environment … they've put me on resuscitation there a few times."
When asked if it was in the right location, he said: "Yeah, what other location could it be? "You sell heroin in the suburb, you have a safe injecting room in suburb.
"The only person that can help a person is a person … no one makes me do what I do.
"I'm not off track, it's just one of those days."
READ MORE ON THIS ISSUE: OVERDOSE CALLS SOAR IN CITY'S HEROIN SUBURBS