The RSA, in partnership with CRI and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust operates across three sites in West Kent and has recently been focussing its effort on raising awareness in the local area. Where possible we have been trying to let the community know that we are here in the hope that we can reduce some of the stigma around recovery and also to encourage the huge amounts of people with a drug or drink problem to access the treatment and support that could help.
With this in mind, I spotted this article today and was both saddened and surprised. Crawley Borough Council has reportedly turned down a proposal to open up a recovery service in the local area. This came after a series of concerns had been aired to councillors by members of the public around the perceived increases in crime and antisocial behaviour that a service might generate.
This isn't just nimbyism, it’s counter-productive and the concerns are not based on any sort of reality.
I think the overwhelming positivity we have seen in West Kent has made me naïve to the negativity that still surrounds recovery and the short-sightedness of politicians from all sides that don’t want an unpopular decision blotting their copybook.
The major reason given for the refusal seems to be that the proposed site is in a residential area. Heaven forbid that services are made accessible and put in places that people live! I would suggest that this is a perfect place. A good service would likely go out in the community and try to engage with problematic users, just like the fantastic outreach workers do in the West Kent Recovery Service. It would help to solve the problem, rather than acting as a magnet for trouble.
This situation reminded me of a story that a colleague told me a while ago when a local treatment centre was to be moved about 100 yards and placed on the high street. There was an awful lot of fuss from local councillors and residents which died down when it was pointed out that a service had been operating so close by for the last 15 years, without causing any trouble.
On a positive note, it made me realise that there is still a lot of work that can be done, including from the recovery advocates and champions that are all over the country and remain largely unseen. We need to get out in the community more often, let people know that we are here and demonstrate what really happens in a recovery service.
To give you an idea, I spent yesterday morning in one of the West Kent Recovery centres. Whilst in a meeting with a service-user led research team there was a Breakfast Club happening next door. I could hear mixtures of laughter and story-telling, people enjoying each other’s company and sharing their problems. Following this was a peer support group run by the amazing Aspire2Be (more about their work here) and then a music group. In my experience, recovery spaces are inspiring places to be. Nowhere else can I think of a philosophy where supporting other people is so central to your own achievements.
And, if you were wondering, I’d be more than happy to have a recovery service in my back yard.