Shatterproof Founder Is Using His Business Savvy To Take On Opioid Epidemic

By David Konow 08/05/16

After losing his son in 2011, businessman Gary Mendell founded Shatterproof, a national organization committed to combating addiction and the stigma surrounding it. 

Shatterproof Founder Is Using His Business Savvy To Take On Opioid Epidemic

When you lose a family member to drugs, it’s a devastating experience. In the wake of Heath Ledger’s death eight years ago, his father has been speaking out, and many families are sharing their pain with the world in the hope that it can save lives.

Gary Mendell is one of those people. The former CEO of HEI Hotels & Resorts suffered a horrible loss when his son Brian, who struggled with opioid addiction, committed suicide in 2011.

In the wake of his son’s death, Mendell founded Shatterproof, which calls itself “the first national organization committed to protecting children from addiction to alcohol or other drugs and ending the stigma and suffering of those affected by this disease.”

Mendell brought his business acumen to the organization, putting together a list of "non-negotiable" goals in fighting opioids, including monitoring how they’re prescribed, setting up prescribing guidelines, making the overdose antidote naloxone more easily available, and eliminating the shame that patients feel when they’re addicted.

“Cutting the problem in half is fairly straightforward," Mendell told Forbes. "Like running a business, we need a strategic plan and to measure progress.”

Among the accomplishments listed on Shatterproof's website are getting laws passed that require doctors in Wisconsin, Maryland, and several others, to check their respective prescription drug monitoring database before prescribing powerful opioids. Shatterproof’s goal is to reduce addiction and drug overdose deaths by 50% within the next 20 years.

In remembering his lost son, Mendell writes that Brian "was a loving child, full of smiles and light," but he "battled the disease of addiction and its cycle of shame, isolation and failure" for nearly 10 years. In one of the last times the father and son spoke, Brian told his father, “Three hundred years ago, they burned women on stakes in Salem because they thought they were witches. Later they learned they weren’t and stopped. Someday, people will realize that I am not a bad person. That I have a disease and I am trying my hardest.”

Mendell hopes Shatterproof “will foster tolerance and compassion" and "dismantle the discrimination and judgment associated with this non-discriminating and devastating disease.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.