Officials in Etowah County announced Monday they will be cracking down on parents who endanger their children by taking illegal drugs around them.
The Etowah County Sheriff's Office, District Attorney Jimmie Harp and Etowah County DHR director Teresa Sauls held a joint press conference at the sheriff's office to make the announcement. In the new push by Etowah County authorities, even unborn children will be protected by the law.
"A disturbing tragedy is occurring weekly in Etowah County as pregnant women are choosing to chemically endanger their unborn child," Sheriff Entrekin said in a release. "We will stand together as concerned law enforcement and social service professionals to fight this troubling issue."
Sheriff Todd Entrekin said if a woman gives birth to a baby and the child tests positive for an illegal drug, she will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Entrekin, Harp and Sauls said they're reaching out to Gadsden's medical community and plan to prosecute any mother whose newborn tests positive for illegal drugs. Entrekin estimated there are around 50 babies born in the county each month who test positive for drugs.
Sauls said her agency, DHR, will find a temporary home with family or foster care while they try to get help for the mother. If she doesn't get help, they'll move to sever parental rights.
The three said it's part of their overall mission to protect members of the community who have the hardest time protecting themselves.
"I think we all have the same goal, and that's to make sure that a child is born to a mom and dad who are clean and drug free, and that that child is born drug-free, and lives in a happy and safe environment," DA Jimmie Harp said at the news conference.
The Etowah County Sheriff's Office recently charged two women with chemical endangerment of a child. Natalie Barton, spokesperson for the sheriff's office, said only three cases of chemical endangerment have been reported to them since 2011. Another case is still being investigated.
The sheriff's office says Tiffanie Angelia Mitchell, 23 of Gadsden, was arrested on May 6 and charged with one count of chemical endangerment of exposing a child to an environment in which controlled substances are produced or distributed.
In the other case, 18-year-old Breanna Latreace Wilson of Attalla is charged with the same crime, which is a class A felony. She was arrested on May 2.
Both Mitchell and Wilson were booked into the Etowah County Detention Center on $5,000 property bonds. Wilson has since bonded out.
"Let these cases be a warning to anyone who chooses to use drugs and endanger the life of an innocent child. You will be arrested and charged. You will be held responsible," Sheriff Entrekin said in a release about the arrests.
"It is simply unacceptable for an adult to endanger a child's life with their choice to use drugs," Entrekin said.
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