#FINDINGHOPE: After crisis, Nampa woman and police officer share a touching reunion

A mother reunites with an officer who she says saved her life and inspired her recovery.
Posted at 9:34 PM, Aug 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-24 02:25:59-04

NAMPA, Idaho — It's not often police are showered in appreciation for their law enforcement, but one Nampa woman wanted to make sure a Nampa police officer knew just how much he impacted her life.

It was a moment Nampa resident Airia Howe has been looking forward to for years: thanking this police officer for being there for her when few others were.

"It's good to see her back to normal, I mean, life in her face..." said Officer Heath Otto.

"I reached out to my family in the wrong ways, I scared everybody away from me, and you know, Officer Otto was-- yes he was a police officer-- but he knew who I once was," said Howe.

Howe first met Officer Otto years ago while working at a Subway sandwich shop near the station.

"Right when I first started at Nampa PD, I went in the Subway, saw her, and we were just chatting and whatever else," said Otto.

In the years to follow, addiction took ahold of Howe's life.

"I just did drugs-- whatever was in front of me I would take, ya know?" said Howe.

This led to what Howe describes as two drug-fueled mental health crises-- one of which Otto recalls as, "She was obviously in crisis. She wasn't speaking coherently. Sentence forming wasn't really there. Obviously if she wasn't able to take care of herself, she's not going to be able to take care of her daughter. So I ensured that her daughter was in a safe spot, had another officer stay with her daughter as I contacted her mom. Her mom came down from Mountain Home to take care of her daughter. And then her and I went to the hospital so she could receive the help that she needed, so she could be safe."

Howe said he treated her like a human, not a criminal-- showing care and empathy toward her.

"Just him and his eyes right there, that was just so comforting to me," said Howe. "His soul could feel for me. Maybe I made good sandwiches or something."

Howe says she later underwent 40 days of treatment at Intermountain Recovery Hospital.

"It just lit a fire under me. I’ve been trying to keep strong and not make poor choices, not let people in my life. I don’t need them-- but just be there for my daughter," said Howe.

Howe said it has now been three years since she used hard drugs.

"For her to be able to break the cycle, and be willing to work a program and realize that, 'Hey, I need to go a different path with my life for her, for her daughter and everything else. That's massive," said Otto.

"You've done such a phenomenal job. Congratulations," he added.

"Thank you," said Howe.

As I previously reported, it is community policing like this that Nampa Police Chief Joe Huff said is one of the department's main goals.