Joann Japalucci drops the same elementary grade school children off everyday—she know who gets off at what stop, who walks together, and who is allowed to walk home alone.
Kindergarteners and first graders must be accompanied by a guardian, but older kids are allowed to make the short walk from the bus stop to their house by themselves.
But when one 7-year-old’s mother wasn’t there to pick him up one day, Japalucci knew something was wrong.
This boy was in the second grade, which meant he was old enough to walk home from the stop by himself. But Japalucci knew that his mother came to pick him up every day, and the fact that she wasn’t here this afternoon was significant.
“I didn’t feel right about it,” Japalucci said. “I just had a strong feeling that I shouldn’t. That there was just something going on and he wasn’t safe to go. Even though it was only half a block away, I just couldn’t do it.”
She told the boy and the dispatcher that she would finish the route and then come back to the boy’s stop to see if Mom was there.
She wasn’t—so the principal of the elementary told Japalucci to bring the boy back to school.
Latrobe Elementary School principal Sherri Holler then drove to the boy’s home, and there she found a horrifying scene.
The boy’s mother, Kaylee Macasaet, was passed out on the couch, with her 3-year-old on top of her. The boy started screaming for Macasaet to wake up, but she was completely unresponsive.
Holler then called the police.
According to the police report, investigators found 247 empty stamp bags of heroin, along with syringes and burnt spoons.
Macasaet explained to the police that she was trying to detox from heroin—she had taken Xanax and Adderall in an attempt to do so—and wanted to be left alone so she could lock herself in her room and ride out the detox for the next few days. In her lethargic and muddled state, the police needed to take her into custody.
Japalucci was shaken that her gut feeling had been absolutely right, and thankful she trusted her instincts.
“I am very thankful. By the grace of God, it worked out the way it did,” Japalucci said.
The opioid epidemic has skyrocketed over the past decade, due in part to the ease of access of the drugs, and how incredibly hard it is to wean off of opioid addicitons. Heroin, along with prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet, are incredibly addictive, and have become the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.
Macasaet is only 29, and her misguided attempt at “detoxing” was harmful not only to herself, but to her children. But thanks to Japalucci, the police got there in time.
“Maybe now everybody can be aware of the situation, and the family can get the help they need,” Japalucci said.