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Tonja Myles is an ordained minister, community activist, peer counselor, veteran, and sought-after counsel for community-based systemic approaches to mental wellness and rehabilitation. Her expertise comes from her own experience as an addict, suicide attempt survivor, and victim of childhood sexual abuse. She is an advocate for humane, compassionate, and ethical treatment of individuals who suffer from mental illness.
Tonja’s journey led her from the crack house to the White House, where, in 2003, she was the honored guest of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at the State of the Union Address. In his address, President Bush acknowledged the rehabilitation program Tonja had created in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to help those addicted to drugs.
Today, Tonja works in three Louisiana prisons with inmates who have substance abuse and mental health issues. She teaches a class for female prisoners—“Women in Recovery”—in which she addresses anger management, job skills, good choices, and building healthy relationships. Tonja speaks at schools, where she teaches children the danger of drugs, including deadly new synthetic drugs, and the power of choices. “Choose not to use” is the message the former addict preaches at rallies and school assemblies.
She also hosts a weekly radio talk show on Cumulus Media—The Tailgate: Real Talk, Real Results—during which she discusses community and national issues. She works with Louisiana politicians and community leaders to bring about changes in policy and to raise awareness about substance abuse and mental health issues.
Tonja has presented her inspirational message at prisons, churches, conferences, schools, community events, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, and even the White House.