A year ago on Tuesday, April 12, Buzzards Bay resident Ryan T. Tripp received a phone call he will never forget. He was told that his only son, Ryan T. Tripp Jr., had died from a drug overdose.
The news shocked Mr. Tripp. His son, who grew up in Mashpee and Falmouth, had just completed drug court and was living at a sober house in Boston.
But it was not long before Mr. Tripp realized that there were many people like his son.
“We lose thousands of kids [to addiction] every year and nothing is being done,” he said in a telephone interview.
In the past year, Mr. Tripp has taken it upon himself to help others who are struggling with addiction, volunteering with police departments and prevention groups and providing a listening ear or a ride to a treatment center for anyone who needs it.
His efforts have not been unnoticed. He recently was contacted by a childhood neighbor of his son, Kerry E. Hanrahan, with an offer to collaborate.
Through Ms. Hanrahan, a 28-year-old former Mashpee resident, and her fiancé, Justin B. Dunbar, 34, the co-founder of an addiction treatment center in Pompano Beach, Florida, a new scholarship is available for men in recovery in Ryan Tripp Jr.’s name. Called Ryan’s Bed, the scholarship will allow free 30-day treatments for one individual per month who cannot afford rehabilitation in a private center. Mr. Tripp was named the scholarship administrator.
“It means the world to me,” Mr. Tripp said, his voice cracking. “It means someone else has a chance at life… they don’t need to die so young at 20, 25 years old.”
The cause is also a personal one for Ms. Hanrahan. She and Mr. Dunbar are both in recovery from addiction and have been following the opiate epidemic’s impact on Cape Cod. Within about a week and a half, Ms. Hanrahan said, four people she knew from Mashpee and Falmouth died from overdoses.
She said that all of those who died recently are “really good kids” from nice families, and it saddened her to learn of their deaths.
“We’re losing the Cape and it breaks my heart,” she said, beginning to cry.
Ms. Hanrahan, who is a social media marketer for Simple Path, learned via Facebook of Mr. Tripp’s activism for addiction treatment and prevention and asked how she could help.
“We just thought, ‘Well, why don’t we create a scholarship and memorialize Ryan Tripp.’ Let’s provide someone with this opportunity [for recovery],” she said.
In a separate phone interview, Mr. Dunbar said that he is a “firm believer” in geographical change for recovery. During his own 15-year struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, he said that he spent much of his time in jail, rehab centers and psychiatric wards.
“Drugs took my family, my friendships from me,” he said. “You name it, it completely destroyed my life.”
While it was difficult to leave everything he knew, Mr. Dunbar said, it was not until he relocated to Florida that he managed to stay sober. Mr. Dunbar said that he was 9 years old when his own father died from a drug overdose. As a result, he initially wanted to stop using for his own son.
“I said, ‘I can’t have my own son grow up without a father’… but then I [realized], ‘When I do it for me, it will benefit my family,’” he said.
He stressed that sobriety is not guaranteed for anyone who receives treatment at Simple Path. However, getting out-of-state care can be beneficial, Mr. Dunbar said, because it allows people to step outside of their comfort zones and move forward with a clean slate.
Scholarship recipients will enter a roughly 30-day intensive outpatient treatment program free of charge. Mr. Dunbar said that the services typically cost anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 and include individual and group therapy for at least three hours per day, five times per week, as well as residency at supervised sober living accommodations where clients can receive assistance with job placement, transportation to the treatment center and access to recreational activities.
Candidates must be at least 18 years old, medically detoxed and able to provide a urine sample free of drugs or alcohol upon admission. Once selected by Mr. Tripp, individuals will be assessed by Mr. Dunbar over the phone.
“It’s not just going to be given to anyone. It has to be someone who is willing to do whatever it takes,” Mr. Dunbar said.
The scholarship is one effort of many to spark change in an ongoing addiction epidemic nationwide. Hopefully, Ms. Hanrahan said, the spread of services and dialogue on social media will create a safer, more open environment for people suffering with addiction to ask for help.
A 25-year-old from Stoneham named Matt O’Malley was approved as the first scholarship recipient. Mr. O’Malley arrived at Simple Path for treatment on April 12, the one-year anniversary of Ryan Tripp Jr.’s death.
Mr. Tripp said of his son, “He was the one that other kids looked up to when they had problems. I just think my son would want his friends to live and to have another chance.”
Mr. Tripp can be reached at 508-317-7728 for further information about the scholarship.