WHITEBSURG, Ky. – Allison Rose sits in a chair in the Letcher County District Courtroom looking at a camera and ready to tell her story.
Just behind her is the bench of Letcher County District Judge Kevin Mullins. Flanked with the seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Rose stood at that same bench nearly one year ago addicted and pregnant. Facing charges for paraphernalia and complicity to traffic methamphetamine, Rose was presented an opportunity.
“That opportunity changed my life,” Rose said holding back tears. “When I stood before Judge Mullins, I thought my life was over. Little did I know it was just beginning.”
Judge Mullins is a straight shooter. He grew up in Jenkins, just a few miles from his court room in the county seat of Whitesburg. Family members and loved ones are often lined up outside of his office waiting for a word with him. It is also not unusual to see him speaking to inmates at the Letcher County Jail, which is located just below his courtroom in the basement of the Letcher County Courthouse.
“The people coming into my court are seen as the casualties of an epidemic,” Judge Mullins said. “While they have broken the law, many have the desire to seek help, to seek recovery, and to rebuild their lives.”
He started offering inmates the opportunity to seek treatment in 2010. Since 2010, 197 individuals been sent to inpatient drug treatment centers by the court or via social services, according to Judge Mullins. Of that number, 155 have completed treatment, 24 left treatment facilities against medical advice, and 18 are currently working towards completion.
Access to treatment has been a real benefit. In Judge Mullins’ first eight years, he recorded 90 competitions. In 2018, Addiction Recovery Care began to work closely with Judge Mullins to provide accelerated access to treatment through providing a Community Liaison to the district court. In just eight months, 65 people have been placed in treatment facilities.
“We are combating this epidemic at all levels and we have an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Judge Mullins. “And we know that our community approach is addressing our community’s problem of addiction.”
Rose, who also has three older children, was given the chance to go to Karen’s Place Maternity Center, a facility located in Louisa, Ky. for would-be mothers seeking treatment for addiction. It is operated by Addiction Recovery Care, a Cornerstone Partner of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR).
“I’m not going to lie, it was tough, especially early on,” said Rose. “I thought about my three older kids, and I thought about the baby I was carrying. I thought about the hurt I caused to so many, but I also discovered my faith and the power of forgiveness.”
On November 20, 2018, Kayleigh Danni-Lynn Rose was born while Allison was in treatment. That moment was surreal. Kayleigh was born healthy, showing no signs of addiction or withdrawal.
“The moment I held Kayleigh, I recognized that recovery was real not only for me, but for my family,” Allison recalled.
Three weeks after giving birth, Allison was discharged from Karen’s Place and returned home to Letcher County. One of her first stops was the Letcher County Courthouse, where she visited Judge Mullins and introduced him to what she calls “the result of his compassion for me.”
Almost six months later, Allison walked into the Letcher County District Courtroom with Kayleigh. Judge Mullins peaked through his office door and smiled. He hugged Allison and held Kayleigh.
“We have to expect miracles,” he said. “This is not about what I done or what the court system did, this is about what happens when we care and present opportunities to help people find recovery.”
After meeting with Allison and Kayleigh, Judge Mullins took off his robe and walked downstairs to the jail. A young man was sitting on a bench outside the door with a duffle bag. This person was waiting to go to treatment. Judge Mullins has a conversation with him and they shared a laugh. As the young man left with a case worker, he encouraged him to take advantage of this opportunity to find recovery.
Minutes later, he met with a female inmate and handed her a phone number to call her mother at work to tell her she was going to treatment. He pointed to the phone – it was the one at his seat in the District Courtroom. The young lady was emotional as she informed her mother.
“This is what it is all about,” said Judge Mullins. “I am not naive enough to think that this will work for everyone, but I am smart enough to know that if we do not react, this could be catastrophic to people, their families, and our communities.”