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New summer campaign launches amid record breaking opioid overdoses in EBR

A group of advocates is sounding the alarm about an epidemic that's showing no signs of slowing down.
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 10:59 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - There’s a new warning about an epidemic that’s showing no signs of slowing down.

As of May 16, there have been 83 fatal overdoses and 532 non-fatal overdoses in East Baton Rouge Parish.

“They’re lacing fentanyl with everything. Marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth, you name it,” said Tonja Myles, a certified peer support specialist.

Ronnie LeDuff is a recovering addict and gave a firsthand account of how drugs nearly destroyed his life.

“I started off with the typical, upper middle-class childhood,” LeDuff said.

“I became a chronic alcoholic, I did a lot of jail time because of my decisions at an early age and in my adulthood, and just not having any coping skills and not knowing how to deal with life terms, I found ease and comfort with heroin.”

LeDuff said he lost about 100 pounds in the process.

“I had 6 suicide attempts, I had 5 overdoses, I neglected my kids, I was homeless for months and even a year at a time, still in and out of jail and rehabs, and finally on my last suicide attempt in April of 2019, I asked God for forgiveness, and I asked him if he saved my life and spared my life I would be at his mercy and here I am today,” LeDuff said.

LeDuff said he was so dependent on drugs that everything he did relied on his ‘next fix’.

“It was the fact that I didn’t even want to brush my teeth without heroin, I didn’t want to take a bath without heroin, I wouldn’t want to eat without heroin. That was my ‘ah-ha’ moment where I knew I had to change and do something,” LeDuff said.

Amid the spike in overdoses and hearing stories from people like LeDuff, Tonja Myles decided to kick off a new campaign called Save Our Summer (SOS).

Myles said they plan to increase outreach efforts this summer by 50% to bring awareness and save lives. The campaign will take place between June and August.

“We’re going in hard like never before,” Myles said.

Myles said they plan to canvas three main hot spots, help people engage in treatment options, offer training within faith-based communities, and teach personnel how to use NarCAN.

She believes this approach will make an impact and save lives.

“There’s hope too. The people who are using it. We’re to help them get in treatment so they can live their best life,” Myles said.

“I believe in my higher power that I choose to call God and I truly believe he had his hand on me when I went through everything I went through, and I had to see it through to have an impact on somebody’s life,” LeDuff said.

For more information about the initiative and how you can participate, you can email Myles at Tonjamyles@att.net.

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