Welcome to the new Bridge website and what I hope is the first of a series of CEO blogs.
As we approach our 30th year in business as a charity I look back with pride on our achievements and forward with some trepidation about the future of our sector.
Bridge has come a long way from being a street based agency and is now widely recognised as an innovative and forward thinking provider of quality services to people with substance misuse issues and multiple needs. As well as providing a continuum of recovery focussed services from being the single point of contact for anyone with a drug problem in Bradford through to a structured abstinence programme for people who want to quit altogether, we have created exciting opportunities for work experience and employment through our pioneering social enterprise Forks Cafe. We have adapted our services to meet the changing profile of substance misuse in the district through initiatives such as The Change programme and won new contracts to deliver services for the most complex and vulnerable such as our WY-FI and 4Women services. We are proud that the UK offers the best treatment system in the world and we can rightly say that we have done our part to be at its forefront.
Despite all this progress there is work that still needs to be done by the sector. Nationally 97% of people with hepatitis C go untreated and despite a 32% rise in heroin and opiate deaths Naloxone availability (which may have averted some of these) in England is highly variable with little sense of Government urgency.
The future of our sector gives me cause for concern and a sense of urgency. The latest news is sweeping government cuts to the Public Health budget which funds services vital to the long term health and wellbeing of our society such as obesity, smoking cessation and substance misuse. Trying to save money in these vital areas is like running your car without a service – in the long run it costs you more to put right the damage. Drug related crime used to be a huge issue but is now no longer a political priority. Why? Because first rate drug treatment services have brought down the crime rate and delivered on the agenda they were funded for in the first place. It defies logic that the government would start to disinvest just because we’ve done a good job but that’s exactly what appears to be happening.
Austerity certainly presents its challenges but locally in Bradford it’s not without its opportunities. Competitive tendering brings in new partners with a fresh approach and the District substance misuse review is likely to lead to service redesign and a further round of tendering. This creates anxiety for some providers but in the long run if you believe in the quality of your services and the value for money you can offer to the tax payer then the process shouldn’t be something to be feared. I believe in Bridge and the skills of our staff and I’m confident that we will thrive in the new landscape and be delivering services for many years to come.
Bridge has a proud history serving the communities of Bradford and will continue to dedicate itself to improving the quality of life of the people the organisation supports.