At its semi-annual meeting in February 2021, the Board of Directors of Aging with Dignity elected Tonja Myles of Baton Rouge, Louisiana as member of the Board, serving a two-year term.
Ms. Myles is an ordained minister, advocate for the elderly, community activist, peer counselor, veteran, subject matter expert in mental health and untreated trauma, and a proponent for faith-based approaches to substance abuse recovery. She promotes mental health awareness and rehabilitation by sharing her life experiences. Ms. Myles has been in recovery from addictions for more than 38 years.
Ms. Myles knows about the needs of the elderly through hands-on experience. She is currently the primary caregiver for her aging uncle and responsible for every aspect of his life, and is working with Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome on the opioid crisis as it pertains to senior citizens.
As a result of her long-time work in social services, Ms. Myles has developed an extensive network of community leaders, public officials, law enforcement, and community resources. She was recognized by President George W. Bush during his 2003 State of the Union speech to the nation, acknowledging her perseverance and expertise in faith-based recovery and her “amazing work in helping people with addictions.” She later became a public “face” of the administration’s faith-based approach to substance abuse treatment.
In 2004, Ms. Myles founded Free Indeed, 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.
Ms. Myles served in the Louisiana Army National Guard for nine years as a member of the military police. Her military training and dedication to serve her state and country enhanced her servant leader skills and ability to mobilize into action quickly. She played a key role in the recovery from numerous area hurricanes, including Katrina, where she provided shelter for the homeless, elderly and others whose lives had been uprooted.
Ms. Myles has served on several community boards. In 2016, she served as a social service and mental health advocate on Mayor-President Broome’s transition team. She currently continues her mission on the boards of the mayor’s mental health advisory council, as well as a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Baton Rouge City Police Chief’s Advisory Council, Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center and Louisiana Behavioral Health Advisory Council. She is an active member of the Bridge Center for Hope board, which is the first mental health stabilization unit in the city of Baton Rouge. She is also trained in some of the country’s top suicide prevention programs, such as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and safeTALK.
Ms. Myles is the host of a weekly radio program in Baton Rouge, “The Tailgate Show.”
- YWCA Greater Baton Rouge Social Justice Award, 2019
- Black Ball Rouge 28 honoree, 2019
- Center For Women Veterans Trailblazers Award, 2019
- The Buttery Society’s Butterfly Award for Domestic Violence, 2018
- The President’s Call to Service Lifetime Volunteer Award (75,000 Hours)
- Louisiana Hall of Fame’s Volunteer for Justice Award, 2005
- Johns Hopkins Substance Abuse Innovators Award, 2005
- The Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum Foundation Volunteers for Justice Award, 2005
- The Daily Points of Light Award, 2004
- Special guest of and recognized by President George Bush during his State of the Union address, 2003
- Volunteer Baton Rouge: Where Service Matters Award, 2003
- WAFB-TV “Where Service Matters” honoree, 2003
- Business Report Top 40 Under 40 honoree, 2001
- Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc Community Service Award, 1999