Recovery in the North West

Mark Gilman Ray JenkinsRecovery rising

Ray Jenkins and Mark Gilman talk about the North West’s contributions to the UK recovery movement

The North West of England has a reputation for leadership and innovation in responding to the challenges of addiction. The Merseyside harm reduction response to heroin in the 1980s has taken on legendary status, while the comic capers of Manchester’s Grandpa Smackhead Jones and Peanut Pete were eagerly followed in the late 1980s and 1990s.

The North West is now the epicentre of the UK ‘recovery movement’. The common denominator in 30 years of North West developments is ethnographic authenticity – the people on the receiving end of research, policy and practice would never allow someone else to speak for them. The origin of the contemporary North West recovery movement began when a small group of people came together to ask each other if there could be more to treatment than staying alive, keeping out of jail and being HIV-free.

The North West legacy has three key messages: that modernised treatment services can initiate recovery; that recovery is a community thing based on jobs, homes and friends; and that the future of sustainable health and social care systems lies in asset-based community development.

In April 2014, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and Public Health England (PHE) launched a scheme to work with prisoners who signed up to abstinence-based recovery support during their journey through the penal system – Through The Gate, later renamed by service users as Gateways.

Prisoners are engaged with coaches recruited from local recovery communities prior to and upon release. Coaches are selected as experts by experience and trained to engage people by sharing their story, while facilitating access to community support, including mutual aid meetings, family support and recovery housing.

The other defining feature of the North West is pragmatism. We want recovery and you want to save money. So, why don’t we come together and design systems of treatment and recovery that will keep the harm reduction gains while promoting recovery at the same time?

Ray Jenkins is director at Emerging Horizons and Emerging Futures CIC,

Mark Gilman is managing director at Discovering Health,