[Exerpted from TAMHO newsletter]
TAMHO DIVERSITY AND LEADERSHIP AWARD BESTOWED POSTHUMOUSLY TO FORMER ASSISTANT
COMMISSIONER RODNEY BRAGG
Many of you worked with Rod and knew his dedication to ending addiction and improving the quality of lives for people; not just those in treatment but those who were suffering and without hope.
Rod was involved in raising public awareness about addiction and co-occurring disorders. He was primary in calling for agencies to utilize evidence based and ‘best practices’ in treatment. Rod worked tirelessly and diligently to bring about lasting changes in policies to improve access to treatment. He knew how to work with policy makers and was able to reach those who did not necessarily have his empathy and understanding for individuals with co- occurring disorders. One such success was the critical support he provided for the establishment and funding for the Substance Abuse Outreach Program. This program has become a national model for addressing the connections between suicide and substance abuse.
What you may not know is the work Rod has done to promote diversity and inclusion. After arriving in Nashville, Rod became a public advocate for LGBT rights. He helped coordinate and participate in one of the first gay pride marches; he was active in organizing the Cracker Barrel sit ins in the early 1990s when the company was public about their discrimination against LGBT employees and customers. Rod was willing to be the face of the LGBT community at a time when it was less safe to do so.
Rod was the first openly gay man to be a foster parent in the state of Tennessee. He later became the first openly gay man permitted to adopt an infant. Rod and his family were one of five families nominated to receive Family and Children’s Service’s Family of the Year award.
Rod was also an advocate for racial equality. If Rod heard anyone make a disparaging racial comment, he would be the first to confront them and hold them accountable for their words; still without judgment or shame, but seizing an opportunity to educate.
The TAMHO Addictions Committee has been profoundly impacted by Rod’s life. One member-Vickie Harden– may have said it best,
“Rod always seemed to see the world through a lens of compassion. He was steadfast in his belief about the good in people, and the good we can all do when we join forces in service to others. We honor and respect the life he lived, and the legacy he left behind, even in the wake of what feels like a tragic end. The real tragedy will be if we cannot follow his lead, and ensure the people of our state who are so vulnerable have a voice and are cared for from that compassionate, loving lens. Surely we can do that, if nothing else, to honor his life and work.”