After son’s overdose death, New Milford parents officially form nonprofit to fight drug addiction

NEW MILFORD – A “game changer” is how city resident Tony Morrissey describes the impact his foundation can now have in overcoming substance use disorders and opioid addiction.

The Brian Cody’s Brothers & Sisters Foundation, LLC, which was established in 2019 by Tony and his wife Tracey Morrissey after their son Brian Cody Waldron died of an overdose at age 20, has just become a non- official 501(c)(3) for-profit charitable organization.

Tony Morrissey said the new designation “really opens the door to a lot of different areas – both financially and volunteering”.

“It was a long effort,” Morrissey said, adding that it took exactly a year to get there. “We had to work with the IRS to prove to them that we are a legitimate organization by showing them what we do and how we do it.”

He said being a “legitimate charity we have been vetted and proven to be doing good deeds within the community”.

Birth of an organization

Initially, Morrissey said the effort to create the foundation began with legislative proposals that he and his wife hoped to see passed to bring about change to the opioid epidemic.

“There was a stack of them,” he said.

They include: fcreation of the position of community angel (navigator) statewide, stricter monitoring of opioids and synthetic drugs, and others.

The Morrisseys brought these ideas to the attention of New Milford Mayor Pete Bass and State Representative Bill Buckbee, R-New Milford, New Milford Police Chief Spencer Cerruto and the Department of Social Services of New Milford.

They also created a Facebook group, which was originally to keep friends and family connected as they grieve for their son.

In a very short time, the page “exploded” to thousands of members, Morrissey said.

It has continued to grow.

“It was quite miraculous. Families like us have joined our cause and started participating in some of the initiatives we have put in place,” Morrissey said.

The Morrisseys also realized they could help by providing direct assistance to struggling families. They started connecting people to the services they needed.

“We’ve literally gone into crisis situations, picked people up, worked with them to provide resources, and literally brought them to drug treatment centers and inpatient care facilities — and we’ve done that by the hundreds so far. stadium,” he said.

Additionally, the foundation donated food and clothing to sober homes.

Most recently, last August, the foundation hosted the New Milford Recovery Festival and 5K Run, which aimed to bring more awareness and recovery solutions to the cause.

Buckbee said the Morrisseys have been “a very important part of the team” across the state in raising awareness and “getting things done.”

As an example of a citywide effort to combat substance abuse, Buckbee cited Justin Cullmer, New Milford’s community care coordinator.

Cullmer’s job title should be “angel,” Buckbee said. “It’s boots on the ground.”

He added that Cullmer made the process of getting help very personal.

“Instead of giving someone a phone number, he reached out,” Buckbee said. Cullmer works one-on-one with residents to get them the help they need.

And he doesn’t end his relationship after a meeting, Buckbee added.

“He stays in contact with individuals and works with them to find them a warm bed to sleep in, as well as providing them with the appropriate addiction services they may need,” Buckbee said. “It is also an ear for them. He’s able to have those conversations and help those people get back on track.

Moving forward, how to help

Despite all the measures taken by the Morrissey Foundation and others like it, substance use disorders and opioid addiction continue to plague the state and the nation. In Connecticut, official counts from the state health department marked 1,247 confirmed drug overdose deaths in 2021. However, this number has decreased from 1,369 deaths the previous year.

Additionally, by county, there was a slight decrease in drug overdose death rates in Litchfield from to 40.5 in 2019 to 31.1 between January and June 2021, according to state data.

“Our area is the only one in Connecticut to see a decrease in deaths year over year, which I believe is due to the critical collaborations underway here in the greater New Milford area,” said Morrissey.

He said the foundation’s motto was to “keep going”.

“We will redouble our efforts to provide recovery resources. If people think we won the war, unfortunately they are wrong,” Morrissey said. “That’s why this designation is so important. Maybe we can open a door that we couldn’t open before.

As a nonprofit charity, the foundation can now apply for grants and award scholarships to those trying to get into low-income housing or drug treatment centers.

He said the foundation’s goal this year is to raise and fund support services worth $50,000.

Morrissey said those who want to help with the effort can do so in a variety of ways, including making a monetary donation to a scholarship or drug rehabilitation center, joining Facebook groups and listening to podcasts to learn more. participating in fundraising efforts to connect people with the resources they need and start conversations.

“The more attention is paid to the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders, the more willing we will be to find new ways to address this problem,” said Morrissey, who, along with his wife, has adopted seven children.

“I want to show my family that we’re not just going to cower in a corner and cry for the rest of our lives,” he said. “We’re going to stand up and show people there’s another way to deal with this problem. It’s to make sure my son’s legacy lives on.

[email protected] 203-948-9802

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