The coverage of Eva Rausing's death has focused on the tragic end to a wealthy woman's struggle with drug dependence. It is important to remember however, that, to those working in addiction, Eva was first and foremost a uniquely committed and insightful supporter.
Eva was involved with our work at RAPt for many years, and quickly grasped our vision – of offering treatment to prisoners with drug and alcohol problems, of the same quality that was available in private treatment centres for those who could afford to pay. Certainly she and her husband Hans offered extremely generous financial support – but there was much more to the relationship than just handing over money. Eva made a huge practical contribution to the development of the charity, with the result that thousands of previously addicted prisoners are now living positive and drug-free lives in the community.
She understood the complex challenges faced by people trying to recover from addiction. When she visited our prison programmes, she made a great impact. She was totally honest about her own struggle, putting prisoners at ease and talking very naturally about her experiences. People in rehab – especially those in prison, who've reached rock bottom – react positively to someone taking an interest. The fact that she was one of the richest women in the UK, who was willing and able to empathise with their stories, was an incredibly powerful message.
Her insight into the particular issues faced by women led to a special interest in this area. It was a grant from Eva and her husband Hans that enabled RAPt to open the first treatment programme for women at HMP Send over 10 years ago. Many hundreds of women have benefited over the years since it opened.
Eva was keen for us to take risks and explore new ideas – enthusiastically supporting an initiative to train programme graduates (ex-prisoners who had remained drug and crime free) as counsellors and join the staff. One person helping another to make the journey, someone with direct empathy and understanding, is key to the ethos of the charity. Giving that person the opportunity to develop an interesting, meaningful career is even better. RAPt personnel who are also graduates of the programme can now be found working across the organisation – including among our trustees. Eva and Hans Rausing recently broadened this support by funding a project guiding ex-prisoners into a range of education, training and employment opportunities.
Eva was an intelligent woman who used her wealth and experience to try to prevent people becoming addicts or to find a way out of addiction once it had a hold. Her death is a tragedy that illustrates the terrible force of this illness.
Mike Trace is CEO of the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust, www.rapt.org.uk