MARCHING TO A DIFFERENT DRUM
This Waltham couple lost their son to fentanyl. Instead of vigils, Joe and Joni are battling the opiates crisis by targeting a common scourge for recovering addicts. “They can’t get around,” Joe said. The couple runs a program to cover Uber rides to appointments, rehab and court as part of their Mighty Drum non-profit (Joe Maffei plays the drums). It’s a big little thing. No-car stress and addiction don’t mix, says substance abuse counselor Meaghan Ritcey of Waltham Health Dept. If an outpatient treatment bed becomes available, it’s go time. But how to get there fast when you’re starting over? Roads to Recovery steps in with an Uber.
Joe and Joni’s son Brian Nolette fatally overdosed in 2015. In an acclaimed documentary, he struggles to re-enter society after release from prison. Nationwide, 95% of released former addicts return to drugs and alcohol. As the film shows, there’s life after incarceration—and the pair have found meaning in helping people like Brian and other opiate users before it’s too late.
Currently they’re gearing up for a Mighty Drum fundraiser concert Sept. 22, with top blues and rock players from the region.
Couple provides transportation for addicts with ‘Rides to Recovery’
WALTHAM, Mass. – A Waltham couple who lost their son to an overdose is helping other addicts on the road to recovery. Joe and Joni Maffei’s son, Brian Nolette, a 34-year-old father, devoted friend and talented barber, died in October 2015. Joni hadn’t realized how long her son had been battling addiction, but once she found out he was in trouble, she spent entire days on the phone trying to find him a bed in a treatment facility. Despite his loved ones’ efforts, Brian lost his battle to a fentanyl overdose. “He was very charismatic,” Joni Maffei said of her son. “Everybody loved him.”
Brian had been in and out of jail since he was a teen, and as an adult, his driver’s license was suspended. Joe and Joni recognized the challenges Brian experienced not only getting to work but also getting to treatment the moment a bed was available. “We saw what he had to go through to go to work every day, and we said to ourselves, ‘Jeez, if he’s having a hard time with this, I bet all the other people are having a hard time,’” said Joe, who is legally blind. “I’ve had a vision problem all my life, so I never drove. So I always knew exactly what it took to try to get to point A to point B. So I said to (Joni), ‘Honey, we need to start a program.’”
The Maffeis were inspired to help others struggling with addiction after becoming friends with the filmmakers who had created a documentary featuring Brian. Northern Light Productions’ documentary “Beyond the Wall.” Followed several inmates as they reentered society. Brian passed away during the filming, and, with Joni Maffei’s permission, they filmed some of his services, including the scenes in their movie. The documentary was played at schools, universities and prisons, and for politicians, making it around the state, eventually to Washington, D.C., and finally around the country. That activism pushed Joe and Joni to make a difference, too.
“We went around talking to treatment centers and different organizations, and we found out that there was a hole in what was going on,” Joe said. “That hole was, they had the facilities, they couldn’t get the clients there. So I said, ‘That’s it, we need to provide transportation so we can get these people into a bed, into sober homes, into treatment centers.’”
Maffei, who made a name for himself years ago as a drummer, opening for big bands like the Police, had stopped performing for a living while raising his daughter. He decided to get back into the business, starting the non-profit organization Mighty Drum, Inc. His band holds concerts to raise money for the program “Rides to Recovery.”
The couple is reaching out to shelters, hospitals and organizations, putting money into accounts and providing phones for them to call Uber rides for addicts who don’t have licenses or cars. Those rides will take those in need to court dates, appointments and mainly treatment. “Once they’re willing to go to recovery, you got to get them there, or you’ll lose them,” Joni said.
The Maffeis have raised up to $15,000 so far. Their efforts have brought joy back into their lives in honor of a young man gone too soon. “It makes me feel that there was a reason and that you can turn it around to be something great,” Joni said of her family’s pain. “Instead of focusing on all the people we’ve lost, we focus on those in recovery and we create success stories,” Joe added.
Joe has used the connections he still has in the music business to set up events. The next concert fundraiser will feature famed blues singer, James Montgomery, and guitarist David Hull, who was a substitute bass player for Aerosmith, and Jeff Levine, who played keyboard for Hall and Oates. The event is at the American Legion hall at 215 Waverly Oaks Road in Waltham on Sept. 22.
For more information or to donate to the Maffeis’ organization, visit www.mightydrum.
Follow their Facebook page or go to their website:https://mightydrum.org/ to learn more about upcoming events! “Catch the Vibe, Join the Tribe”
Thank you Virginia Gardner and Newton Cable for the opportunity to tell our story as we discuss the opioid crisis
Thank you David Hunt and Woburn Cable for the opportunity to tell our story as we discuss the opioid crisis.
Mike and Maureen meet with Joe and Joni Maffei, founders of the non-profit The Might Drum, to discuss the loss of their son Brian to an overdose in 2015, and how they have used that pain as fuel to help countless others find and gain access to treatment. They discuss the new music video for “Rise Above The Noise”, by FireHeart Productions starring Maureen Cavanagh and her daughter Katie Harvey, This true story reflects the daily struggle a young girl endures with substance abuse as explained in the New York Times best seller “If You Love Me”.