Pregnant heroin addict turns herself in and now helps others fin - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Pregnant heroin addict turns herself in and now helps others find treatment without persecution

Source: WOIO Source: WOIO
BEREA, OH (WOIO) -

Caitlin Dougherty was only 15 when she said she became addicted to heroin and after going through recovery while pregnant she's vowing to save as many lives from addiction that she can.

"First time I tried it, I overdosed. I was on a basement floor for four hours. I woke up and I went to get more," she said.

Caitlin, who is from Painesville, battled heroin addiction for nine years, often times hoping she would meet the same fate as 517 others did in Cuyahoga County in 2016 -- the moms, dads, sons, daughters who overdosed on heroin or fentanyl and died.

"I used to, please, please, let this be it. I would overdose and I would wake back up and I'd be even more mad," she said.

Caitlin overdosed 20 times. She said she hated what she had become.

"I lost my morals, my family because, it was my own choices," she said.

This past summer, Caitlin found out she was pregnant. "I wasn't hurting only myself. I was hurting somebody else now," she said.

So Caitlin said she did something she never imagined she would do -- she walked into the Berea Police Department and turned herself in. She was the first heroin addict to do so under the department's Safe Passages Heroin Initiative. She faced no charges, as long as she entered recovery. They helped her do that. Since August, they've helped 51 people enter treatment.

"The people who come to us, the main thing you'll hear from them is, I do not want to live like this anymore," said Sgt. Patrick Greenhill with the Berea Police Department.

"If you're going to go to police officers for help, you're really desperate," said Nicole Walmsley, who is the liaison between the officers and the addicts. "I go to different police departments, go to people's houses, talk to families, to airports."

Walmsley works up to 80 hours a week, mainly out of her car, helping addicts in their most desperate hours. She’s picked some up off street corners to get them to detox, she’s transported others from recovery to sober houses.

"Nobody helped me really in my addiction. Nobody came for me and showed me hope and love and compassion. And the only way we're going to get anywhere is if we show compassion and stop judging," she said. 

As a former heroin addict herself, Walmsley knows how quickly the door of opportunity can shut. Caitlin's case was no different. 

"She was withdrawing, so she was very agitated, hated the world, hated me," Walmsley said. "In Ohio, some facilities won't detox women over 25 weeks pregnant, so she got turned down."

Placing Caitlin was a challenge, too. Three area facilities turned her down in the first few hours because the risk for a miscarriage was too high.  

"It wasn't like we were turned away at the door, each facility worked with us to find a place to put her," added Greenhill.  

A recovery home in Cincinnati finally came through. 

"They had to keep her on methadone until the baby was born and then detox," said Walmsley.

Her baby, Bella, was born this past October, five weeks early. She had a twin, that did not survive. So far, Bella has been eating, gaining weight and doing well, her mom said.

"It's awesome, it really is. I have my life back," said Caitlin.   

Caitlin also has a 4-year-old son. She said she knows it’s a long road still ahead, but she now feels she has the tools to carry on with a new chance and a new purpose.

“I've seen too much death. I was just tired. I have my whole life to live now," she said. "Finally."

During a "We Do Recover" fundraising event last week, Caitlin reunited with Walmsley and the Berea police officers for the first time since she entered recovery. It was an emotional reunion, Caitlin said, because she said they saved her life.

"I'm not a victim. I'm a survivor and if there's anything I can ever do to help somebody else, I will do it," she said.

She said sharing her story is the first step in paying it forward. 

  • For more information on the Safe Passages Initiative, contact the Berea Police Department. The Safe Passages Initiative is also being done by Olmsted Township Police. You do not have to reside in those cities to get help. 

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