When Rob Brandt and a team of helpers set out on a mission five years ago, the goal was to save one life.
Five years later, the Medina-based nonprofit group Robby’s Voice — created in memory of Brandt’s son who overdosed on heroin in October 2011 — was recognized Friday in Washington, D.C., with a 2017 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award. The award was based on collaborative work in the greater Cleveland area, according to a news release from the FBI.
The award was presented by FBI Director James Comey. The program was created in 1990 to honor individuals and organizations for their efforts in combating crime, terrorism, drug abuse and violence.
Brandt said he learned in January that Robby’s Voice would be a recipient.
Taking a few seconds, Brandt searched for words to describe what the award means.
“Honestly it’s completely overwhelming. It came out of the blue. I can’t even talk about it because I don’t even know what to say,” Brandt told The Gazette on Thursday before boarding a plane for the capital.
“You don’t set out to get awards. You don’t do what we do to get an award.”
Brandt’s son Robby was 20 when he died.
When he was a teenager, he was prescribed opiates after having his wisdom teeth taken out, leading to drug addiction.
Brandt said Robby’s Voice began as a way to start public conversations about addiction. He added that “doors have opened” for the program in its efforts.
He said he receives calls from parents wanting to talk because a child is addicted to heroin or a family has lost a child and needs counsel.
Considering all the groups working on anti-drug abuse in the medical field, government, treatment facilities and school systems, Brandt said that “everyone has to work together with urgency. The rest of the country will look at Ohio and ask, ‘How are you doing this?’”
He noted how the addiction problem has changed over the years.
“I sit back and think … Five years ago, there were less than a handful of community-based organizations” to help fight against addiction.
Today, that’s not the case.
“They’re growing and people are standing up and saying, ‘Not in my community.’ “
He said public discussions are important.
“That’s how we’ll win and beat this,” Brandt said.
Working with the FBI to provide families and communities with resources on drug topics, Brandt said talks occurred this week on making resources available to addicts — at the scene of overdoses, too — and in meetings afterward. He called it the infant steps of recovery.
Robby’s Voice also has been working with the FBI to raise awareness of the hourlong documentary “Chasing the Dragon,” which details the dangers of addiction.
Brandt wants it to reach wider audiences.
“We do the best we can. We’re one spoke in the big wheel,” Brandt said.
“Chasing the Dragon” can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1SOXIyL.
Recovery center debated
Brandt has been following discussions at the county level for a proposed recovery center that would be funded by a state grant obtained by the Medina County Common Pleas Court’s Probation Department.
Officials are discussing operating the center at the vacant Medina Steak & Seafood restaurant, 538 W. Liberty St.
The facility would be open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
Brandt supports the proposal.
“We are excited about being involved. This center is a major step forward in creating a safer Medina, a compassionate Medina, and it puts Medina in a leadership role relative to this issue,” he said.
For more information on Robby’s Voice, visit www.robbysvoice.com.
Contact reporter Ashley Fox at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.