Compass began providing services in October 1986 under the name York Drugs Resource Scheme (YDRS). With a team of just two and a half members of staff, YDRS provided an advice and counselling service and was the first agency to be set up in the York area dedicated to helping drug users. Seeing each contact with a service user as an opportunity to break the cycle of dependency, we concentreated on providing “street level” harm reduction interventions and established one of the UK’s first needle exchange schemes in 1987.
At the same time, we developed our work with drug users in custody, building relationships with the prisons and probation teams engaged with people from York. By the early 1990s, our work with prisons had expanded to cover most of Yorkshire and was supported by a Home Office initiative to pump prime innovative work with offenders. We also worked closely with residential rehabilitation providers, working with service users to prepare them for rehabilitation or detoxification and supporting them on completion of treatment to sustain the outcomes gained.
Our desire to provide clients with a comprehensive range of care, either directly or through partnership with other agencies, led to the creation of our first community prescribing service in 1992. The York Drug Dependency Clinic (YDDC) began treating patients at the end of 1993 and was supported as a pilot project by the then Regional Health Authority and the Family Health Services Authority. In 1994, YDDC developed its Primary Care Link Nurse Service to work with GPs in the treatment of their own patients, pioneering from a very early time, the principles of shared care that are now central to community prescribing.
By 1995, we had an expanded range of services spanning harm reduction, counselling, community prescribing and a pioneering programme of interventions with drug using offenders that included support at bail during court procedures, probation orders and the aftercare of prisoners. To realise our desire for a model of treatment that offered progressive levels of care, the organisation added a structured day programme, which provided community-based rehabilitation and effectively completed the “whole system” approach.
In 1998, the organisation had expanded across the North of England. We adopted the name Compass to reflect our widening remit. Building upon our considerable experience of service provision across the treatment framework, we continued to grow steadily, expanding our operations into the Midlands and London while maintaining quality and innovation. We were the largest provider of CARATs between 1999 and 2005. In 2000, we developed our pioneering young people’s substance misuse model which, from the outset, supported the development of the wider children’s workforce as being a critical part of treatment effectiveness.
Over the last ten years, we have deepened our services to provide a more holistic response to the needs of service users, tackling their inclusion as well as their addiction. We are a major provider of employability training and job placement contracts and work closely with housing agencies to provide stable accommodation. Increasingly, we deliver fully integrated Tier 2/3 services which provide a seamless journey for service users from pre-contemplation to recovery at reduced cost for the commissioner. The result is our solid reputation as a specialist case manager with a commitment to innovation and partnership.
Today, we support more than 15,000 people each year in the north of England, Midlands and London and employ around 250 staff.