June 28, 2011

Cocaine incident recalled

Neighbor: Mother ran to me for help after child swallowed drug

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- Jennifer Witham gets shaky just thinking about the day her neighbor's child lost consciousness after swallowing cocaine.

click image to enlarge

Jennifer Witham and her daughters Haley, left, and Surae, on Monday sit on a flight of stairs leading to an upstairs apartment in Oakland where Jennifer heard the cries of a neighbor whose baby had swallowed cocaine last week.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Witham, who lives in the same apartment building as the child's parents, Jillian Jones and Justin Currier, said she rushed to the couple's aid Thursday when Jones cried out for help.

"She came running down the stairs hollering, screaming, 'Help me. Help me. My baby's not breathing -- she just swallowed cocaine,'" Witham said Monday.

"I flew out that door and got her (Jones) to sit down. She was panicky, shaking. The baby was flopped over her arm."

Witham, who has two daughters herself, was frantic. She said she looked at the 18-month-old girl, whose name is Brookelynn, and the toddler looked lifeless and had turned a strange, reddish color.

Jones, who is 21, called 911. It was 10:57 a.m., according to police records.

"She was on the phone with the 911 call center, and the baby was (unconscious) and she wasn't coming out of it," Witham said. "They told her to hurry up and get water. I ran into my apartment and got a Dixie cup, and we gave her water; and she was coming out of it, but not all the way. Justin was doing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) -- breathing in her mouth -- to get her to breathe, and she did."

When the toddler woke up, her eyes were dilated, according to Witham.

"She started to cry. She reached for my mail. I had got my mail out of my mailbox."

Witham, 40, told the story Monday while sitting on her porch at 25 Belgrade Road. With her were her daughters, Surae, 10, and Haley, 8, who were aware of what happened Thursday, although they were in school at the time.

"I want them to know about drugs so they don't ever take them," Witham said.

The toddler was taken to the hospital Thursday after the incident, and Jones and Currier, 30, were arrested. The baby was admitted and released Friday from the hospital.

Jones and Currier are charged with felony endangering the welfare of a child, unlawful possession of drugs (cocaine) and destroying physical evidence, because the they reportedly destroyed the cocaine before police arrived, according to police Capt. Rick Stubbert.

Jones was released on $10,000 unsecured bail. Currier was also charged with a probation violation and is in the Kennebec County jail in Augusta. The couple is scheduled to appear Aug. 9 in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Police on Thursday called the state Department of Health and Human Services about the case. Department spokesman John Martins said Monday he could not discuss specific cases, but he could talk about the steps taken when such incidents occur.

"We absolutely do engage in a safety plan and process," Martins said. "The safety of the child is of primary concern. We look at it in terms of 24/7. We look at everything in terms of how many people are involved in the safety plan."

That safety plan has to be agreed upon by the parent, and it has to meet strict department standards, he said.

An emergency family team meeting typically is called; and if a child is placed with a family member of the parent, all of the players must be involved in the planning process and understand what the department is trying to do, according to Martins.

"Typically, we are looking for a very robust safety plan, and something that covers the child around the clock," he said.

Stubbert said Monday that he had not been told whether the department had placed the child in Jones' or anyone else's custody.

(Continued on page 2)

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