Sobriety program helps pregnant heroin addict find a 'Safe Passage'

Posted at 9:16 PM, Feb 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-09 21:21:15-05

She came close to death nearly two dozen times.

Now, a young mother is telling News 5 about the unique program that she credits with saving her life.

"You really only see one way out and that's just to die, and I prayed to die every day and I thought that would be better for my kids," said Caitlin Doughtery.

The 24-year-old from Painesville was four months pregnant and using heroin to get high every single day when she finally decided she had enough.

It's the breaking point Doughtery was all too familiar with, but this time around, she was able to find a new way to fight her addiction.

It’s called Safe Passages.

The program wasn't even officially up and running on that hot August day she walked into the Berea Police Department to tell officers she was addicted to heroin.

It's what happened in the hours that followed that finally now has Doughtery on the right track.

And she's not alone.  More than 60 addicts have been helped in just the last six months.

Since the age of 15, Doughtery has been in and out of rehab, experienced relapses, and overdosed on heroin nearly two dozen times.

"I don't know how I'm still here," said Doughtery.

After asking her parents for help, they ended up in a face-to-face meeting with a police officer.

"Who wants to walk into a police department and say, ‘I'm an addict?’"

But that's what Doughtery did.

"A lot of them never had someone say that you can do this," said David Kammerman, Berea Police.

That was Kammerman’s message to Doughtery the day she turned to Safe Passages.

"We have the protect part down, this is the serve part," said Kammerman.

The program, the first of its kind in Cuyahoga County, encourages addicts to turn to police for help.

"We arrest, we incarcerate, we release. We arrest, we incarcerate we release. That doesn't work. We have to change," said Kammerman.

Now, officers are connecting addicts with life-saving resources instead.

Doughtery was the first person to turn to the program, days before it even officially launched.

"We were learning right away. We showed up at one facility with her just knocking on the door, ‘Hi we're the police and we have someone who needs help,’ we didn't know how it worked," said Kammerman.

Within hours, Kammerman helped Doughtery get into a facility in Cincinnati for pregnant addicts and women with children.

"I'm just very thankful that i had people here to help," said Doughtery.

Doughtery spent 30 days in treatment and was clean by the time her daughter was born.

“She was a month early, but healthy as can be. Thank God. Thank God," said Doughtery.

The cravings are still there. Doughtery describes it as a minute-by-minute struggle. But now, she says she knows how to tackle them and realizes what's at stake.

“If I go and I pick-up one time, it's not going to be one time, it's going to be - I'm going to be getting buried," said Doughtery.

As she continues her own battle, Doughtery has a message for all those addicts struggling right now.

“Please just get help because life is so much better on the other side. I promise, said Doughtery. "I thought I was going to have to be a junkie for the rest of my life. A little bit of willingness goes a long way."

Safe passages is a partnership with Berea and Olmsted Township Police.

It's not an amnesty program. People with warrants or facing other legal problems still have to take care of those issues.

Also, addicts don't usually get into treatment as fast as Dougherty did, but it does happen.

Safe Passages has been so successful that four other area police departments are looking to join the effort in the coming months.