Newborn tests positive to drugs; police search for mother
Memphis police are looking for a mother after she gave birth to a baby who tested positive to drugs.(Photo Source: MPD)
Sister Reach Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott believes the rehab component is taking a back seat to arrests of women like Washington. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(WMC) - Memphis police are looking for a mother after she gave birth to a baby who tested positive to drugs.
The baby was born on July 5 in Memphis. After a medical staff determined the baby was addicted to illegal drugs, they contacted Tennessee Department of Children Services, according to the police report. DCS then turned a report over to Memphis Police Department on Thursday.
Police issued a warrant for 30-year-old Jamillah Washington—who has been previously booked under the name Falls—following an investigation by sex crimes and juvenile abuse detectives.
The mother has been arrested within the past few years for various traffic violations and possession of a substance with intent to sell. Most recently in 2013, police charged her with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and forging a prescription. Those with information are asked to call CrimeStoppers at 528-CASH.
This marks the first charge by MPD under Tennessee's new law that criminalizes drug use while pregnant; that went into effect July 1.
Groups like Healthy and Free Tennessee and National Advocates for Pregnant Women fought against the law's passage with several other groups.
CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health executive director Rebecca Terrell says medical experts have long recognized that newborns can be born dependent as a result of prenatal exposure to opioids as well as other prescription drugs like anti-depressants.
These children are not prone to relapse and will not exhibit compulsive drug-seeking behaviors, Terrell says, of the condition labeled addiction.
"Labeling this infant as 'addicted' is inflammatory language that does a disservice to a complicated issue," she said. "Women struggling with addiction need health care not handcuffs."
Governor Bill Haslam signed the measure into law and stated at the time, "The intent of this bill is to give law enforcement and district attorneys a tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs."
Sister Reach Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott says it looks like the legislators and lawmakers who sponsored this bill were lying. She believes the rehab component is taking a back seat to arrests of women like Washington.
"We are dealing with women who have a medical issue that needs to be attended to, and what they don't need is to be placed in jail," Scott said. "I think we were definitely afraid that women were going to do what they needed to do in order to avoid jail time."
The law will automatically be reassessed after two years.
Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.
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