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BIO

Tonja Myles is an ordained minister, community activist, peer counselor, veteran, subject matter expert in addiction, mental health, and untreated trauma. Tonja takes a faith based approach to substance abuse recovery and sought after counsel for community-based policy and system changes. She promotes mental health awareness and rehabilitation with sharing her life experiences as a recovering addict for more than 30 years, suicide survivor, victim of childhood and adult sexual abuse, including her diagnosis of PTSD. Her story is shared in published books, magazines, documentaries, commercials, videos, and featured talk show guest and national television series. She is a passionate advocate of humane and ethical treatment of individuals with mental illness, substance abuse, sexual trauma, domestic abuse and those formally, and currently incarcerated.

 

Unlike a clinical counselor, Tonja can openly share her lived experience in recovery while helping others change their lives. She is trained in mental health first aid for both adults and youth. Her role as a Certified Peer Support Specialist which is an evidence based best practice approach to treatment in recovery, is pertinent to the recovery team. Her role of peer specialist has emerged from reconnecting substance abuse and mental health treatment to the provision of ongoing supports in recovery. She has moved thousands of people to sobriety and healthy self-sustainable lifestyles, with her resourcefulness, passion and peer support services. 

 

As a result of her long-time work in social services, Tonja has developed an extensive network of community leaders, faith base partners, public officials, law enforcement, and community resources. Tonja was recognized by President George W. Bush, during his 2003 State of the Union speech to the nation. He acknowledged her perseverance and expertise in faith- based recovery, and went on to become the face of the faith-based approach to substance abuse treatment for President Bush's administration for 6 years.

 

In 2004, Tonja co-founded Free Indeed Treatment Center, which was the first licensed faith-based outpatient treatment center in the state of Louisiana. Free Indeed provided intensive outpatient treatment and support recovery services for individual and group therapy. The model was used to open many other faith based treatment centers in the state of Louisiana and around the country.  This program also enabled ex-offenders to receive transportation, transitional housing, job placement, and life skills through the Access to Recovery grant.

 

Tonja served in The Louisiana Army National Guard for 9 years as a military police. Her military training and dedication to serve her state and country enhanced her servant leadership skills and ability to mobilize to action quickly is a part of what makes her so successful today. 

 

She continues to use her powerful and passionate voice for advocacy and has testified on Capitol Hill numerous times, in front of Louisiana state leaders. Tonja has served on several community boards.  In 2016, she served as a social service and mental health advocate on Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s Transitional team. She currently continues her mission on the board of The Mayor’s Mental Health Advisory Council, as well as a member of NAMI, Baton Rouge City Police Chief's Advisory Council, and Louisiana Behavioral Health Advisory Council. She is an active member of Aging with Dignity an organization inspired by Mother Teresa and Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center. She was one of the founding members of The Bridge Center of Hope, which is the first mental health stabilization unit in the city of Baton Rouge and Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center.  She is also trained in some of the country's top suicide prevention programs such as ASSIST, Safetalk, and obtains several intervention certifications.

 

Tonja gets her “hand on the pulse of the community “in her role as a weekly radio talk show host for Cumulus Media in Baton Rouge called The Tailgate Show. She discusses topics related to her listeners concerns, with her “real and raw” communication style. Her audience is empowered by resourceful conversations with expert guests, politicians and community leaders. For 7 years, she's hosted a TV talk show called "Choices, empowering you to make better choices so you can live a better life". She mentors women and empowers them on how to walk in their purpose sharing her successes and challenges, so that they too can truly be a change agent within their own communities. Tonja often says and truly believes, "it is vital to educate and encourage others so that they can do greater works than I have accomplished in my lifetime".

 

Tonja is a well known local and national speaker. She has spoken on topics related to addiction, trauma, sexual abuse, mental health and suicide in schools, prisons, faith-based conferences, churches and business training's. She is open and honest about her own life experiences in these areas and her path from victim to survivor. Tonja’s message is that with proper treatment, family, friends support, faith and self-care together it can equal to living a productive life.  Her goal is to reduce stigma and bring hope that recovery is real. She says that her greatest accomplishment is being married to her husband Darren, of twenty-six years.

Special Recognition:

  • Black Ball Rouge 28 Honoree 2019

  • YWCA 2019 Social Justice Award

  • The Buttery Society: Butterfly Award for Domestic Violence 2018

  • Center For Women Veterans 2019 Trailblazers Award

  • Special guest recognized by President George Bush during his 2003 State of the Union  Address for her “amazing work in helping people with addictions.

  • ”The Daily Points of Light Award in 2004

  • The President’s Call to Service Lifetime Volunteer Award (75,000 Hours)

  • Volunteer Baton Rouge: Where Service Matters Award 2003

  • Louisiana Hall of Fame’s Volunteer for Justice Award 2005

  • Business Report Top 40 Under 40, 2001 Honoree

  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc Community Service Award 1999

  • Johns Hopkins Substance Abuse Innovators Award

  • WAFB Where Service Matters 2003 Honoree

  • The Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum Foundation Volunteers For Justice Award 2005