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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Dr. Anne Miller
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 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.
Heidi Bartels was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and lives there with her son Oliver. She is an interior designer at a local kitchen and bathroom design firm. Heidi is in long term recovery from heroin addiction. She became interested in Addiction is Real when she realized that she had no idea how to even begin to talk to her own son about addiction and alcoholism, even though she had experience with it. She wanted to not only learn how to talk to her son but also help others from going down the road she had been down. She believes if she even helps just one other person from going down that road then it is worth the effort of trying because no family or person should have to live through that pain.
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.
VP of Partnerships/ Director
Kevin Prunty is a Vice President in the Private Debt & Equity Group at Reinsurance Group of America, where he focuses on investments in small and mid-sized companies across North America. Kevin is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where he was a four-year letter winner and captain of the Men’s Basketball team, and works as a volunteer youth basketball coach. Kevin and his wife, Kelly, live in St. Louis with their four children. Having seen the destruction addiction can cause families and as the father of four young children, Kevin is razor focused on finding ways to educate as many people as possible on the dangers of drug abuse.
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 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.
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.
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