Baton Rouge, LA – August 14, 2023 – East Baton Rouge Parish is making headway as its leaders and substance abuse experts tackle the nationwide opioid and fentanyl crisis. Set Free Indeed Ministry's flagship program, "When You Are Ready," has been pivotal in mitigating drug overdoses and championing addiction recovery efforts in East Baton Rouge Parish. Initiated two and a half years ago, this program has fostered collaborations with local leaders, behavioral health providers, businesses, churches and community organizations.
The "When You Are Ready" team, informed by and equipped with relevant overdose data provided by the DA’s Crime Strategies Unit, routinely visits locations, businesses, and neighborhoods most affected by overdoses. The team offers peer support outreach, dispenses printed and digital materials about treatment resources, distributes Narcan medication, and provides fentanyl testing strips.
The program is spearheaded by Tonja Myles and her team of eight Peer Support Specialists, most of whom are recovering addicts and have family members who struggle with addiction. The team has visited over 870 locations in or around overdose “hot spots,” interacting with about 300 people per month, about a third of whom have substance abuse and mental health issues. To date, the program has distributed 1,245 life-saving Narcan kits, 500 fentanyl strips, over 16,000 printed materials with treatment and recovery resources, and connected with more than 3,000 individuals battling addiction.
"As we review the data and witness the impact of the opioid crisis on our community, it's evident that strategic collaboration and evidence-based interventions are making a difference. Our focus is clear: to prioritize the health and safety of our residents,” said Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. “Baton Rouge is committed to leveraging every resource and partnership, like the 'When You Are Ready' initiative, to address this challenge head-on. Together, we are paving a path towards a healthier, safer community for all."
Set Free Indeed Ministry is now planning to roll out a new initiative, "Peers on Point," in collaboration with the Baton Rouge Police Department. In the wake of an overdose incident, the "Peers On Point" team will promptly provide on-site support to the affected individuals and their families.
"Peers On Point" will offer immediate transport to treatment centers for those struggling with addiction. Should treatment be declined, recovery resources, Narcan medication, and fentanyl strips will be provided, ensuring every feasible effort is made to preserve lives.
Tonja Myles, the driving force behind this initiative, leverages her military background to run the operation with remarkable precision, efficacy, and empathy. They have generously shared their expertise by training and providing resources to other nonprofit and community groups across the parish.
For further details about the 'When You Are Ready' program, visit www.whenyouarereadybr.com.
The City-Parish will be receiving a total of $29,867,500.00 over the course of 18 years to implement state approved, evidence based abatement strategies to educate and treat persons with opioid use disorder, as part of the national opioid settlement. The City-Parish received an initial distribution of $3,050,658.34 to implement strategies approved for the State of Louisiana.