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Tonja Myles is an ordained minister, author, radio personality, community activist, peer counselor, veteran, subject matter expert in mental health, untreated trauma, a faith-based approach to substance abuse recovery and sought-after counsel for community based and system approaches. She promotes mental health awareness and rehabilitation with sharing her life experiences being in recovery from addictions for over 36 years, suicide survivor, victim of childhood and adult sexual abuse and a diagnosis of PTSD. Her story is shared in published books, magazines, documentaries, 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 or incarcerated.
Tonja has always had the ability as a great leader to bring together people from different walks of life to work towards a singular goal. Tonja started the WHEN YOU ARE READY campaign in which she supervises a team that consists of eight peer support specialists and other staff. The recovery coalition works to decrease overdose deaths in our communities and country. They collect data from the local crime strategy unit and target overdose hot spots with treatment resources, harm reduction strategies, peer to peer mentoring and other wrap around services.
Tonja has been giving back to keep her community safe for over the past 7 years. She has hosted hundreds of healing circles, both in person and virtually. She also founded the NO JUDGEMENT, NO STIGMA campaign with 20 members which is a peer-life movement focused on eradicating stigma around mental health and substance abuse disorder. They use their living experiences to push hope, raise awareness, provide resources, and advocate for those in recovery and their families. Their motto: Our Voices. Our Resources. Our Hope.
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 of a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, which is an evidence based best practice approach to treatment and recovery. 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 health self-sustainable lifestyle, 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, 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 his administration for 6 years. Tonja has worked on several transitions’ teams under Governors.
In 2004. Tonja founded Free Indeed, which was the first licensed faith-based outpatient treatment center in the state of Louisiana, Free indeed provides intensive outpatient treatment and support recovery services for individual and group therapy. The model was used to open many other faith-based treatment center 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 also initiated the Set Free Indeed community support program, which
also services those who struggle with addiction and provides support for their families, which was duplicated across the country.
Tonja served in The Louisiana Army National Guard for 9 years as a military-police officer. Her military training and dedication to serve her state and country enhanced her servant leader skills and ability to mobilize to action quickly is a part of what makes her so successful today. While in the Army National Guard she was DEI/Equal Opportunity Sergeant for three years.
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, and a highly sought-after subject matter expert on mental illness, substance abuse and trauma Tonja has served on several community boards in 2016, she served as social service and mental health advocate on Mayor Sharon Weston Broom's Transitional team. She currently continues her mission on the boards of The Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center and Aging With Dignity The Mayor's mental health advisory council, Baton Rouge City Police Chiefs Advisory Council, Louisiana Behavioral Health Advisory Council and Louisiana Department of Health/Office of Behavior Health Crisis System Implementation Plan Council. She is one of the founding members of The Bridge Center of Hope board, which is the first crisis stabilization center in the city of Baton Rouge. She is also trained in some of the country top suicide prevention programs such as ASSIST and Safetalk.
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 export guests, politicians and community leaders. For 7 years she also hosted a TV talk show called Choices, empowering you to make better choices so you can live a better life*. She mentors woman and empowers them on how to walk in their purpose and shares her successes and challenges, so that they too can truly be a change agent in communities Tonja 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 trainings. 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-nine years.
Her book "From the Crack House to the White House" will be released in April of 2023. More information to come soon!