After their son dies from an overdose, the New Milford parents officially start a non-profit organization to fight drug addiction
NEW MILFORD – A “game changer” is how townsman Tony Morrissey describes the impact his foundation can now make to overcome substance use disorders and opioid addiction.
Brian Cody’s Brothers & Sisters Foundation, LLC, founded by Tony and his wife Tracey Morrissey in 2019 after their son Brian Cody Waldron died of an overdose at the age of 20, just became an official 501(c)(3) -Non-profit non-profit organization.
Tony Morrissey said the new designation “really opens the door to a lot of different areas – both financially and in terms of volunteering.”
“This has been a long effort,” Morrissey said, adding that it took exactly a year to accomplish. “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 nonprofit organization “legitimizes that we’ve been vetted and have a proven track record of doing good deeds in the community.”
birth of an organization
Originally, Morrissey said efforts to create the foundation began with legislative proposals he and his wife hoped would pass to change the opioid epidemic.
“There was a stack of them,” he said.
These include: funding the Community Angel (Navigator) position statewide, stricter prosecution of opioids and synthetic drugs, and others.
The Morrisseys brought these ideas to the attention of New Milford Mayor Pete Bass, State Assemblyman Bill Buckbee, R-New Milford, New Milford Police Commissioner Spencer Cerruto, and the New Milford Welfare Department.
They also started a Facebook group initially for friends and family to stay connected during the grief of their son.
In a very short time, the site “exploded” to thousands of members, Morrissey said.
It has continued to grow.
“It was pretty wonderful. Families just like us have joined our cause and started getting involved in some of the initiatives that we have put together,” said Morrissey.
Another way the Morrisseys realized they could help is by directly supporting families in need. They started connecting people to the services they needed.
“We literally went into crisis situations, picked people up, worked with them to provide resources and literally took them to detox centers and inpatient care facilities — and we were doing that by the hundreds at this point,” he said.
In addition, the foundation donated food and clothing to sober homes.
Most recently, the foundation hosted the New Milford Recovery Festival and 5K last August, designed to further promote awareness and recovery solutions to the cause.
Buckbee said the Morrisseys have been “a really important part of the team” across the state in raising awareness and “getting the ball rolling.”
As an example of a citywide effort to fight addiction, Buckbee pointed to Justin Cullmer, the New Milford community care coordinator.
Cullmer’s job title should be “angel,” Buckbee said. “He’s firmly on the ground.”
He added Cullmer made the process of getting help very personal.
“Rather than give someone a phone number, they held out their hand,” Buckbee said. Cullmer works one on one with the residents to give them the help they need.
And he doesn’t end his relationship after meeting, Buckbee added.
“He keeps in touch with people and works with them to get them a warm bed to sleep in and get them the right addiction services that they may need,” Buckbee said. “He has an ear for her too. He’s able to have those conversations and help those people get back on track.”
Forward as you can help
Despite all the actions taken by the Morrissey’s Foundation and others like them, substance use disorders and opioid addiction continue to plague the state and nation. In Connecticut, official counts from the state Department of Health and Human Services recorded 1,247 confirmed drug overdose deaths in 2021. However, that number is down from 1,369 deaths last year.
Additionally, by county, there was a slight decrease in drug overdose death rates in Litchfield from 40.5 in 2019 to 31.1 between January and June 2021, according to the state data.
“Our area is the only one in Connecticut that has seen a year-over-year decrease in deaths, which I believe is due to the important collaboration that’s happening here in the greater New Milford area,” Morrissey said.
He said the foundation’s motto is “keep going”.
“We will redouble our efforts to provide recovery resources. Unfortunately, if people think we won the war, they’re 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 non-profit, charitable organization, the foundation can now apply for grants and award grants to those trying to get into sober housing or detox centers.
He said the foundation’s goal this year is to raise and fund $50,000 in support services.
Morrissey said those who want to help with the effort can do so in a variety of ways, including donating cash to a scholarship or detox center, joining Facebook groups and listening to podcasts to learn more, and participating in fundraisers attend to connect people with the resources they need and initiate conversations.
“As more attention is paid to the opioid epidemic and substance use disorder, we will be more willing to find new ways to solve this problem,” said Morrissey, who has adopted seven children with his wife.
“I want to show my family that we don’t just curl up in a corner and cry for the rest of our lives,” he said. “We will stand up and show people that there is another way to deal with this problem. It is to ensure that my son’s legacy always lives on.”