Our Message & Mission

Addiction is Real began with a simple question. How can we educate parents on the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and provide them with the tools needed to guide and engage their children through this very rough and sensitive terrain?


Stop the Silence. Start a Conversation. Save a Life.

The circumstances surrounding our group’s passion to do more was unfortunately grounded in loss, but also a deep and passionate understanding of how important it is to speak to your child early and often about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

So many of us have been affected by addiction. Many of us have lost loved ones, or currently know people who are struggling themselves with drug or alcohol dependence.

Although the need to want to help seemed simple enough, the conversation is one that comes with unfortunate barriers:

25%

It is reported that only 25% of parents speak with their children about the dangers of drugs.

“Not My Child.”

Is usually the phrase we hear over and over again. Of course, the hope is that no child ever goes down the path of drug experimentation, but the reality is far different from our hope.

Children are faced with all sorts of challenges and pressures along their journey, especially during their transition from elementary school to middle school, and middle school to high school. The reality is that so many of us take for granted the premise that our kids are fully prepared for the unfortunate day that they are introduced to something harmful.

When this day comes, it is our hope that we have done our job and educated enough parents to help their kids avoid going down a path that all too often ends in tragedy.

Addiction is Real is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in St. Louis, Missouri whose mission is to provide parents the tools to take a proactive approach in discussing the dangers of substance use with their child, as well as recognize signs of risky behavior.


Est 2015

Founded in 2015 by a group of concerned parents, we are determined to engage as many schools, groups, and parents as possible to push our message through. If you are interested in learning more about services we provide, visit our events page and/or contact us. We would love to hear from you.

Board of Directors

Erin Kelley

Erin Kelley

Executive Director

Erin Kelley joins Addiction is Real with over 25 years’ experience leading nonprofit organizations, with a focus on strategic growth. She brings financial resources (over $70 million to date), to underserved and marginalized populations, with a focus on sustainability for long-term growth and development. Erin holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the University of Missouri – St. Louis, earned the Certified Fundraising Executive designation in 2017, and the Missouri Prevention Specialist Certification in 2019.
Over the last five years Erin led the Drug Free Coalition and nonprofit organization Step Up of St. Louis. Her career has focused on providing education, awareness, and advocacy by bringing the right people and partners to the table. This collaborative approach has led to major changes in legislation in St. Louis County – which has been replicated across the United States. Erin’s love for community and passion to make life better for area youth and vulnerable families has led her to serve as a Member of the Board of Directors for the Police Athletic League (PAL) and to accept an appointment to the nine member St. Louis County Crime Commission. Addiction is Real’s mission is personal to Erin and her son, Jrue – whose paternal grandmother lost her battle with heroin in 2006.

Jude Hassan

Jude Hassan

Co-Founder/ Emeritus Director

Jude Hassan was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and lives there to this day with his wife and son, Rachel and Kingston. Jude published his memoir, Suburban Junky, following the loss of his dear friend to addiction. Along with his role as a speaker and mentor to those seeking substance use treatment, Jude works at SSM Behavioral Health as a Business Development Representative. His team oversees internal and external relationships that are an integral part of SSM’s success as a system.

Kelly Prunty

Kelly Prunty

Co-Founder

Kelly Prunty graduated with a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University. She and her husband, Kevin, live in St. Louis and have four children. Having faced generations of addiction in her own family, Kelly is passionately committed to helping parents understand the dangers of substance use and how they can prepare and protect their own children from the harrowing trials of addiction. In July 2015, Kelly founded Addiction is Real along with recovering heroin addict and published author, Jude Hassan. Kelly has served as Executive Director for four years and is committed to educating as many caregivers as possible on how to prevent addiction and recognize teen substance use sooner.

Dr. Anne Miller

Dr. Anne Miller

President

Dr. Anne Miller recently retired as the Principal of Parkway West Middle School in Chesterfield, Missouri. Anne is a graduate from Northwest Missouri State University with a Doctorate from Missouri Baptist University. Anne and her husband Matt live in Ballwin, Missouri with their three children. Anne first discovered the power of the Addiction is Real organization after inviting them to talk to parents in the West County community. Anne is passionate about educating parents, teachers, and kids about the outcomes of dangerous risk taking. She wants to equip students, parents, and teachers with the tools for them to lead a healthy and happy life. She feels it is important that we all work as a community to develop our youth to be successful.

Teri Douglas

Teri Douglas

Vice President

Teri is happily married to her husband, Tim, for over 40 years. Tim is also involved with the organization, Addiction Is Real. Teri loves nothing more than spending time with her family. She has two children and seven beautiful grandchildren. Her passion in life is helping others. When she is not working at her job as a dental hygienist, you will find her babysitting her grandkids. Teri is zealous about educating other parents on drug and alcohol addiction. Teri and her family were one of the fortunate ones, whose son survived a heroin overdose.

Brett Mitchell

Brett Mitchell

Teasurer

Brett Mitchell currently works for Centene Corporation and is responsible for Cybersecurity. He spent most of his career in law enforcement. He retired from the City of Cottleville where he served as Chief of Police. Brett is also an Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice at Webster University. Brett has a bachelor’s degree in human resource management from Lindenwood University, Master of Arts degree in sociology and criminal justice from Lincoln University, Master of Science degree in cybersecurity from Webster University and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. He is also a graduate of the Missouri Police Chief’s Command College and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Additionally, he is on the executive board for the Eastern Missouri Police Academy and has served on the board for St. Charles County Regional Drug Task Force, and St. Charles County Regional S.W.A.T., and several within the Francis Howell School District.

Laura Gunter

Laura Gunter

Director

Laura Gunter joins the board, bringing her Master’s Degree in Psychology, as well as her passion for helping others. With over 15 years of experience, she has served as a Licensed Professional Counselor, an Adjunct Professor of Psychology, and a Management Consultant to organizations across St. Louis and the globe.

A mother herself, Laura believes there’s no greater calling than being a parent, and is committed to helping families build healthy coping mechanisms for life’s challenges.

Farrah Gilbert

Farrah Gilbert

Director/Secretary

Farrah Gilbert has lived in St Louis since 2017 with her husband and daughter. She graduated with a bachelors degree in interior design from Missouri State University. After owning her own business in commercial interiors for 13 years, she has switched gears and is now focusing on raising her daughter and is grateful for that opportunity.

Addiction Is Real hits close to home. Tragically, addiction is on both sides of her family and has been for many generations. Farrah’s goal is to share her experience, strength and hope with families, caregivers and educators in hopes of preventing alcohol and drug use in children.

Farrah was drawn to this mission because it aligns with her passion of helping others. Discovering Addiction Is Real has made her even more determined to help break the family cycle, drop the stigma, and end the silence.

Megan Simmons

Megan Simmons

Prevention Ambassador, Texas

Megan Simmons was born in Savannah, Georgia. She was raised in Texas and still lives there with her husband, Kyle. They have three kids and recently started their own small business in the tanning & spa industry. In 2013, during the depths of her own heroin addiction, Megan’s mother passed away from alcoholism at the age of 42. Nine days after her mother passed, Megan was arrested and spent one year in prison. Now in recovery for almost 10 years and with children of her own, it is Megan’s mission to spread awareness and educate parents on the signs and dangers of substance use.

Jerome Clark

Jerome Clark

Board Member

Jerome’s professional expertise in addressing various facets of behavioral & mental health; including inpatient & outpatient treatment, crisis response, substance use disorder and co-occurring disorders. Through diverse experiences Jerome has been equipped with a nuanced understanding of the complex challenges individuals face with complex trauma; lived experience grants him the ability to tailor a non-clinical approach to meet the unique needs of each individual. Jerome demonstrates that genuine connection, empathy, compassion and understanding which is essential to the healing process; by encouraging & fostering a safe and sympathetic space for communication, aiming to empower individuals towards navigating their journey toward recovery with resiliency and self-awareness. In practice, Jerome strives to employ a person-centered approach designed to address and heal the entire person, encompassing the body, soul, and spirit. Substance abuse/use disorder is a complex issue that requires personalized attention, compassion & support to help individuals reclaim control over their lives. Jerome does more than just work with the individuals. He also works diligently with the families as a “FSP” Family Support Provider to build healthy relationships, restore bonds, and form plans of action that will allow our clients to live out successful lives in stable, peaceful homes that enables those he works with to develop, practice, and implement the skills necessary to maintain sober, godly lives.

Cate Hartley

Cate Hartley

Board Member

Cate Hartley’s journey with nonprofits advocating against substance use began many years ago, where she discovered her passion for helping others through challenging and traumatic times. As she has seen firsthand the devastating impact of substances on secondary schools, young adults, families, and entire communities, and is committed to making a change for future generations. Cate is currently pursuing her Master of Accountancy at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She brings her expertise to Anders CPAs & Advisors, where she works in their Audit & Assurance Department. “I believe in the power of community and am honored to spend my time with such a passionate, driven, and impactful organization.”

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