At the weekend a friend asked me if I thought I made a difference. This reminded me of a BBC breakfast interview I did in the 1980’s when needle exchanges were being set up for the first time in the UK, despite many aspects of what was being supplied being technically illegal. I was asked how can you justify giving people the equipment to take illegal drugs. My answer was “If providing needles to drug users stops one person getting HIV, blood borne virus, or AIDs it will be worth every penny”. Harm reduction and the low-level of HIV infection amongst injecting drug users in the UK remains an outstanding achievement of the drug treatment system . Increasingly, as harm reduction is being airbrushed out of the drug strategy, we will need to continue to defend the concept.
Blenheim CDP’s mission is to end dependency by enabling people to change. Change is a journey and people will take many routes. Every journey has two key elements the first step and the final destination. Some of us make the journey faster than others and some never get to the final destination. Sometimes helping those who never manage to beat their addiction is the best, most meaningful and important work staff at Blenheim CDP do.
In a world driven by targets it’s easy to forget what is important. With the focus increasingly on people completing drug and alcohol treatment drug or alcohol free and not returning to treatment for a significant period it is easy to miss the other impacts we are having as an organisation on people’s lives.
If I said I could help you improve your quality of life by 16% would you be interested? At Blenheim CDP service users, with our help, achieved the following impact on their lives for people in 2011;
- 33% of heroin users became abstinent.
- 32% of crack users became abstinent.
Arguably more important is the impact service users were able to have on their overall health and wellbeing. On average people changing their lives with Blenheim CDP reported that their:
- Psychological health had improved by 7%
- Physical health had improved by 16%
- Quality of life had improved by 16%
The number of service users who were homeless decreased by 27% between entering the service and follow-up. As an organisation Blenheim CDP needs to work to a target of 100% reduction in homelessness, in the 21st century no one should be homeless. If we can spend billions of pounds on the Olympics we can make sure no one is homeless. My management team will ask if this is realistic to which my answer will be “no but its right”.