Remembering Buzzy

17 August 2011

The entire team at Woodward was saddened to hear of the passing of Richard “Buzzy” Gaiennie, the CEO of Bridge House. The project team that worked on the new Bridge House Rehabilitation Center took great pride in building a facility that would be destined to help so many in the community. It was the vision of Buzzy and his positive impact on the community over the years is nothing short of amazing. Woodward extends its condolences to his family, friends and the entire staff of Bridge House.


Buzzy Gaiennie, Bridge House CEO behind drug rehab programs, dies


15 August 2011

Dominic Massa with reporting by Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS – Richard “Buzzy” Gaiennie, who turned his own fight against alcoholism into a 27-year career as the chief executive of the successful drug and alcohol rehab programs at Bridge House, died Saturday after an illness.
Mr. Gaiennie’s daughter Michelle, who is executive director at Grace House, a women’s treatment program, said her father died after being hospitalized for the past few weeks.
Mr. Gaiennie had been chief executive of Bridge House since 1984, when he was the sole employee. Since that time, the facility has grown to one of the largest of its kind in Louisiana, with more than 65 employees. During his tenure, Mr. Gaiennie increased the facility’s budget to more than $6.5 million and expanded the program to other cities.
Just last year, Mr. Gaiennie was present for the opening of a $10 million, 104-bed facility for long-term drug and alcohol treatment. The facility on Earhart Blvd. is able to treat more than 200 men daily.
The work was described as a mission of love for Mr. Gaiennie, a former automobile dealership executive and recovering alcoholic who had been sober for more than 35 years. Mr. Gaiennie often said he was determined to work to help others avoid the destructive power of addiction that he had lived with for many years.
“He’s an inspiration as an individual and as somebody who has helped people in the community,” said Robert Caraway, who first met Mr. Gaiennie a couple of years ago, when Caraway said he was desparate to kick an alcohol addiction. Caraway credited Gaiennie, and the work of Bridge House, with saving his own life.
“This is a man who, well over 30 years ago, made a vow that he would never turn his back on recovering addicts and alcoholics, and he was true to his word,” Caraway said.

Others in the mental health and addiction treatment community agreed that, without Gaiennie’s work, the city would have seen an even greater health crisis.

“I think many, many, many lives of men would have been lost in their addictions. I know that,” said Cecile Tebo, administrator for the New Orleans Police crisis unit.

Mr. Gaiennie pointed to figures that he said showed that the work of Bridge House was making a difference in the city.
“70 percent of the people who complete our program are sober after two years, and if you consider that our population is people who have lost everything to addiction, that figure is really good,” he told WWL-TV’s Sally-Ann Roberts in 2010.
Mr. Gaiennie was familiar to television viewers as one of the faces of Bridge House commercials, which promoted the facility’s car donation program. The program helped transition Bridge House residents back into the work force by refurbishing donated vehicles for resale. The charity’s thrift shop was also a popular and successful fundraiser.
Bridge House merged with Grace House after Hurricane Katrina. Grace House is the only all-women’s residential substance abuse program in Louisiana. Michelle Gaiennie is executive director of that program.
Mr. Gaiennie was also a deacon in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Funeral arrangements are pending.

WWL-TV medical reporter Meg Farris contributed to this story.

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