BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A local nonprofit, Set Free Indeed Ministry, is getting ready to launch a new initiative Peers on Point in collaboration with the Baton Rouge Police Department. The initiative aims to save lives and support those who survive a drug overdose.
“It’s going to take all of us to really address this opioid epidemic that is killing too many of our family members and friends. And enough is enough,” said Tonja Myles, the founder of Set Free Indeed Ministry and ‘When You Are Ready’ campaign.
Myles with the help of certified peer specialists uses data from strategy crime units and goes out to community hotspots where people die from overdose. Through in-person interaction, they provide fentanyl testing strips, give Narcan to businesses and transport those needing resources.
Joseph McKernan, a peer support specialist, is one of those survivors. He’s been sober for 953 days.
“Kind of did a fake suicide attempt that turned into a real suicide attempt, had no heartbeat and they brought me back. And I’ve really reached out for recovery now. It’s my whole life,” he said.
Now Myles and McKernan will be doing more than bringing awareness by doing on-calls with BRPD when they receive a non-fatal drug overdose.
“When BRPD gets a call of a non-fatal drug overdose, then peers, we will go out with them and provide support. If that person is still alive and had to be brought back by Narcan, then we’re there to offer them hope. We’re there to tell them, ‘look, we’ve been through what you’ve been through. Let us get you help. Let us get you into treatment,’” said Myles.
Myles also said that they will show up to a fatal drug overdose and support families who may need emotional and mental help.
As someone who found the nonprofit and is now helping those who used to be like him, McKernan says he is excited to make a difference with Peers on Point.
“So excited about being able to witness to people that have no hope that there is hope. They overdose and they come back because of the Narcan, to show them another way to live,” he said.
Peer support specialists are conducting training and will start being on-call in September.
Click here for more information on the When You Are Ready program.