A few weeks ago, I asked our readers to share what they were doing to enhance the lives of others by giving back. I heard back from two of our team members at Healthmark, Bob and Jeannie Brandt, they have an amazing story to share with our readers. Here it is: "Robby's Voice, a non-profit organization, was formed in April of 2012, 6 months after the death of our grandson Robby from a heroin overdose. We are a faith-based organization dedicated to education and awareness about addiction. Since then, what we thought would be a small localized effort, has blossomed into much more than we ever imagined. As an organization, we have spoken toalmost 80,000 students, parents, educators, counselors, social workers, law enforcement, physicians and those suffering from addiction. Using his vacation time, our son Rob, has spoken to grades 7 through 12 at schools in 9 counties. We have been asked to now develop a program for kindergarten through 6th grade in an effort to present age-appropriate awareness on how to take care of their brains. A portion of that will be the dangers of misused medications. In May of this year, we launched a family support group called "Family Matters" and it too has grown beyond our expectations. Meeting every Monday night for 2 hours, we educate family members about addiction and setting boundaries to define a clear path as to what will and will not be acceptable in their homes. Since addiction is a "family disease" it affects each member of the family in different ways. This has been helpful in again raising awareness to how other family members may be reacting to having an addict in their lives. Jeannie and I have developed a senior citizen program for one of our communities, at their request. In doing so, we discovered that 14% of seniors are either suffering from addiction or misuse of their medications. On Thursdays, we visit Rosary Hall, a detox program embedded within St. Vincent Charity Hospital, and sit in a one-hour discussion group with those desperate to beat their addiction. Robby's Voice has been featured on all of our local TV stations and we are recognized by the State's Attorney General as one of the premier organizations involved with working towards the defeat of this hideous disease. We also work with the local drug courts, police and sheriff's departments, the DEA and FBI in developing educational programs for schools and communities. Our work is either done early in the morning or after hours so we are able to balance our Healthmark work with our mission successfully. We pay our own expenses and since there is never a charge for what we do, we rely on donations to help sustain our programs and the supplies we need to implement them. Opiate addiction is now claiming more lives than automobile accidents in the US. We consume 60% of the world's illegal drugs and 80% of the legally prescribed medications. In our county alone, YTD there have been over 300 deaths from heroin or fentanyl laced heroin and that's twice the number from 2015. Ohio is losing 8 lives per day to drug overdose. Now carfentanil, an animal tranquilizer, is being mixed with heroin causing an extremely high overdose rate in several area states. We will continue to work for the defeat of this disease in every way we can, but it will take every community to step up, and not only be aware of the dangers of addiction, but also to remember that today's addict is not the stereotypical picture we have in our minds but it is the kid next door." Bob and Jeannie, thank you for sharing this journey you both are on with your family. It is amazing how dedicated you all are to improving this world we live in.


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