A former Pittsburgh Public Schools science teacher who got hooked on heroin and helped rob a bank in 2011 talked to Channel 11’s sister station WTOV Tuesday about her fight with addiction and how she’s trying to help others.
Philicia Barbieri said the reason she decided to speak Tuesday is because she wants to raise awareness about drug addiction.
“Anything that I can say that will help even one other person makes it worth it,” Barbieri said. “Anything I can do to help one person not have to go through what I’ve been through.”
Barbieri is a 2008 graduate of Chatham University and was teaching at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts before she got hooked on heroin.
“I didn’t start using prescription drugs until I was 20, and it started with experimentation in college. Once I experimented with prescription drugs, I didn’t want to do anything else. I didn’t want to drink or use any other type of substance. I was going down to Florida once a month to get prescription painkillers,” Barbieri said.
She told police she stole $22,500 worth of laptop computers from CAPA over a period of several months last winter and stole a television from a neighbor in April 2011 to support her heroin habit.
“It changes your brain, and it’s all you think about. All you think about is how you can get more,” Barbieri said.
Barbieri pleaded guilty in 2011 to nine charges, including helping to rob the Fifth Third Bank on Penn Circle in April 2011.
“Nothing short of me dying or going to jail was going to stop what I was doing,” Barbieri said.
Her former boyfriend, Alvin Carter III, 28, pleaded guilty in 2011 to five charges, including four counts of robbery. Prosecutors said Carter passed a note at the bank demanding $2,000 "or I'll shoot you." Barbieri waited outside and the two were arrested a short time later.
Barbieri said one of her main messages to others is that addiction can happen to anyone.
“I think it can happen to anyone, and I think it can have negative consequences on anyone,” Barbieri said. “Anybody can become addicted because addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or where you’re from.”
Barbieri will never be allowed to teach again, but said she feels lucky to have survived a heroin addiction.