Recovery center close to opening in Medina
Robby’s will provide support for recovering addicts and alcoholics in former steakhouse
Dave Carpenter (left) and Mike Nutter sand the floor in the former Medina Steakhouse. They are part of a team of volunteers renovating the restaurant in preparation of its reopening as a recovery center for those with drug and alcohol addictions. Photo by GLENN WOJCIAK
MEDINA – Those struggling to break their addictions will have some new hope for success when a recovery center called Robby’s opens in Medina July 17.

Volunteers have been busy renovating the former Medina Steakhouse and Seafood restaurant to convert the building into a center where people recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol can congregate, support each other and get job training and placement help.

It will be the first facility of its kind in Medina County and could be a key element in combatting the heroin epidemic sweeping the county and state.

“A center like this could be a huge factor in the recovery of addicts and people struggling to maintain sobriety,” said Veronica Perry, director of the Medina County’s Adult Probation Department. “People who come out of treatment centers too often relapse because they don’t have safe, healthy options in which to live and work and end up falling back into their old lifestyle.”

The center was acquired with the help of a $300,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction acquired by Perry on behalf of Medina County.

Day-to-day management of the center will be provided by the nonprofit group Robby’s Voice, which is based in Medina. Perry also hopes Robby’s Voice will be able to raise the funds necessary to maintain the center after the $300,000 grant to open the facility expires in two years.

It’s a cause dear to the heart of Robert Brandt, who founded Robby’s Voice after his 20-year-old son died of a drug overdose in 2011. The tragic death of his son prompted Brandt and a team of family and friends to create Robby’s Voice in an effort to save another family from experiencing the heartbreak they felt at Robby’s death.

Five years later, the nonprofit group was recognized in Washington, D.C., with a 2017 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award. The award was presented by former FBI Director James Comey to honor the group for its efforts in combating crime and drug abuse.

Like Perry, Brandt believes a recovery center can be a key component in breaking the cycle of addiction.

“The numbers tell us that 70 percent of people who go into treatment relapse,” he said. “The problem isn’t the treatment, it’s the lack of support after treatment that leads people to begin using again.”

Dave Carpenter, a recovered alcoholic and former peer support specialist who worked with inmates at the Medina County Jail, will serve as executive director at Robby’s. He said he and others working on the facility are all recovering from addictions.

“We all need a place where we can go and help one another,” Carpenter said.

Without support, recovering addicts have little chance of breaking their addiction in Carpenter’s opinion. He said more than a dozen of the inmates he worked with at the jail the last year or two died of drug overdoses following their releases.

Part of the support provided at Robby’s will be culinary training for those who lack job skills. Brandt said he hopes to follow a model created by Edwin’s in Shaker Heights, a highly-regarded French restaurant staffed by people who have been released from prison.

“Having a place like this in the community strikes a chord with me,” said County Commissioner Adam Friedrick when informed of plans to open the recovery center. “It could be a step in the right direction in our efforts to get ahead of the heroin problem that we are facing.”

About 50 people each year convicted of drug offenses go through the drug courts program hosted by Common Pleas Court Judges Chris Collier and Joyce Kimbler. They, along with many recovering alcoholics, would be likely beneficiaries of the recovery center.

Commissioners authorized the lease agreement to acquire the former restaurant despite protests from neighbors who said the location was not appropriate in a historic residential neighborhood. County officials said they had considered other available commercial properties, but none met the requirements they were seeking as well as the Medina Steakhouse building.