Camie McGonigle’s boyfriend called 911 after she overdosed on heroin inside her Broward County home this year.
When paramedics revived her, she says one thought came to mind.
“The first thing I said was ‘where’s my son, where’s my son,” McGongile said. “The next day, he was taken from me.”
The Florida Department of Children and Families removed her five-month-old son from the home.
“I knew exactly the order I would lose everything in, how I would lose it, and I did it anyway,” she said. “And that’s the insanity of this disease.”
It wasn’t the first time the mother, who is now in her late twenties, overdosed.
She said she almost died after injecting heroin with a needle when she was six months pregnant last year.
“I always go back to what I know, and what I know is numb the pain,” she said. “I was worried about my baby, that scared me.”
Her son is one part of a growing epidemic in Florida. The number of opioid-related deaths is on the rise in Florida and more children are getting removed from the homes of parents who abuse drugs than ever before.
More than 7,700 kids were taken into state custody last year alone.
“It’s either you get help or you die,” McGonigle said.
She chose to get help at the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center in Pembroke Pines.
It’s one of the only centers of its kind in South Florida where pregnant mothers can safely detox and get therapy while living at the facility with their children, when possible.
That’s where McGonigle has found a new support system of other mothers are are suffering from similar addictions.
Mother of three Erika Oldenbrook has been heroin-free, after relapsing five months ago.
“It’s devastating, I love my children more than anything in this world and somehow I was given this disease of addiction and I chose drugs over my children” said Oldenbrook. “There’s nothing that hurts worse than that.”
The addiction doesn’t always involved heroin.
Kimberly Durant of Pompano Beach says her drug of choice was flakka.
“Through my pregnancy I couldn’t stop, my disease was talking to me a lot,” said Durant.
All three mothers said they quit abusing drugs before giving birth and all three gave birth to un-addicted babies.
However, all three relapsed months after giving birth.
“I’m not a bad person, I just needed help, something that wasn’t available to me at the time,” said McGonigle.
All three of the mothers have been clean for five months after undergoing in-house treatment at the center.
McGonigle is now allowed to have her son, now one-year-old, with her at the center on weekends.
The other mothers say they are close to reuniting with their children as well.
The Governor has proposed a big increase to the state’s budget next year to help fight addiction.
But centers like Susan B. Anthony aren’t expecting to see an increase to the part of their budget that relies on state funding.
Even though they have an increase in their waiting list, and have numerous state contracts to treat mothers.
“We’re only so big, we only have so many beds available so we do everything we can to manage that waiting list to get people in as quickly as they can,” said marketing director Whitney Hughson.
A lot of the state funds go toward what’s called Medication Assisted Treatment.
That’s where prescription drugs like Suboxone are used to treat drug addicts.
At Susan B. Anthony, they use behavioral therapy to treat mothers and their children, not prescription drugs.
Mothers at the center can stay with their families at the treatment for facility for six to ten months.
“I really need help and my therapist tells me you have to open up to let all the pain and anger, you have to express and get it out so you can move on,” said Durant.
The three mothers said after months of intense therapy and being drug free, they have something they didn’t have before – hope.
“I’m being empowered by other women, not just other women, but mothers,” said McGonigle. “And we’re doing it together and we’re standing on our own two feet and learning what it is to love ourselves and our families.”