SEARCY, Ark. – It’s a problem across the state, overdoses continue to rise. Instead of punishing those battling addiction, the Searcy Police Department is focused on recovery.
The department is utilizing someone with real-life experience to help those who in the fight of their lives.
You probably wouldn’t guess by looking at her now, but Kelli McHughes spent 20 years battling addiction.
“I started on the needle in 1996 and I was on that from ’96 to 2016. For me I felt like I was dying alive.
I remember feeling in my addiction no one really understood where I was,” McHughes said.
It was that dark place that pushed her to a 30-day recovery program.
“I learned a lot about myself and why I used, who I was and what I wanted to do,” McHughes said.
Instead of leaving that part of her life behind, she embraced it.
“My passion in life is to save people with the disease of addiction,” McHughes said.
Now, she’s working for the Searcy Police Department as a peer recovery specialist. When officers get an overdose call, she’s right behind them.
“I either go out to the overdose with them or I go to the hospital,” McHughes said.
She’s there the moment someone wakes up.
“I was able to, in one lady’s hospital room, to be able to be the first one to tell her that I love her and that I’m so glad she woke up,” McHughes said.
She also walks with them through each step of recovery.
“I think it would have been very beneficial to me to have someone with me to say, ‘hey I know what you’re going through, I’ve been through it we can get past this,'” McHughes said.
She uses her past to help someone else have a future.
“Alone we are weak but together we are strong. That’s just our whole goal is to save lives,” McHughes said.
McHughes doesn’t just work with the person battling addiction but the entire family. She was the first peer recovery specialist hired by a police department in the state, now there are several others.