Tributes pour in for 'one of Bristol's truest champions' Maggie Telfer who died aged 63

Maggie Telfer set up the Bristol Drugs Project in her mid-20s
Maggie Telfer founded the Bristol Drugs Project in her mid-20s Credit: BPM Media/Bristol Drugs Project

Tributes have poured in for Maggie Telfer, the chief executive of the Bristol Drugs Project, who died on Thursday (January 12).

The 63-year-old founded the Bristol Drugs Project in 1986 to help rehabilitate drug addicts in the city.

Maggie was awarded an OBE in 2007 for her work challenging inequality and stigma faced by drug users as the project grew to become one of the leading drugs initiatives in the country.

The charity’s chair of trustees, John Long, said: "We are all devastated by the loss of a much-loved colleague.

"She has led the charity from strength to strength, across five decades. Maggie’s leadership, compassion and indomitable spirit inspired all around her.

"Our sadness will be matched by the sorrow of many people and their families whose lives were improved and transformed by her work.

Maggie Telfer founded Bristol Drugs Project after recognising the lack of support for drug and alcohol users Credit: BPM Media/Maggie Telfer

"The City of Bristol has lost one of its truest champions. Our thoughts are very much with Maggie’s family at this difficult time."

Maggie was in her mid-20s when she founded the charity with a group of probation officers who felt the cycle of addiction, crime, and prison could be broken if people were sufficiently supported.

The project began nearly 40 years ago when heroin use and petty crime were prolific in Bristol.

It pioneered the approach to provide better services for people, families, and communities affected by drugs or alcohol in the city.

A spokesperson for the project said: "Her immense knowledge, experience, determination and foresight has led BDP to become a much-trusted service provider.

"The charity has worked alongside local government, health, education, police and community agencies to reduce harm and help people fulfill their potential, leading to safer and healthier lives.

"As a result, Bristol is now widely recognised as being at the leading edge of tackling the issues surrounding drug and alcohol use.

"Maggie led BDP through the pandemic, maintaining services without interruption with her usual determination to provide the best service possible to those most in need.

"Her work has a local, national and international reputation, earning many accolades. She was much sought after as an expert speaker both around the UK and abroad."

Maggie spent a couple of years back between 2002 and 2004 helping to establish the Omari Project in Kenya, which was the first sub-Saharan needle exchange and treatment programme.

In 2018, she was nominated as one of the 100 most influential women in the West.

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