Seeing the impact drugs had on people as an aspiring lawyer, Jamie Jameson sensed a calling to do something to help people escape from addiction. Now as Marshall County Circuit Court judge and with a growing army along side, Jameson hopes plans for two rehabilitation facilities can do just that.
He, members of the 42nd Judicial Circuit Community Corrections Board, Inc., and former Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s non-profit The Fletcher Foundation held a public informational forum and fundraiser Thursday at Zion’s Cause Baptist Church near Draffenville to share the vision of the Re-Life Project and two inpatient substance abuse treatment facilities they plan to build in Marshall and Calloway counties.
“Finally, we’re at a place where it’s no longer a dream. It’s becoming a reality,” Jameson said to community members in the church’s sanctuary.
He said 96% of cases in both Marshall and Calloway circuit courts are related to drugs and that judges manage people suffering from the addictions without necessary tools. Two facilities with each housing 100 beds for patients would bring about “large scale change,” save lives and positively affect local communities.
Jameson and other speakers shared their own experiences with familiar faces who were involved in drugs, and even some who eventually died from their addictions despite being incarcerated. Drug-related effects can also see as some female addicts trade sex for drugs and become pregnant.
Murray businessman Matt Imes shared his story of addiction and getting needed treatment to turn his life around during a time of personal testimonies Thursday. Following Imes, Marshall County Commissioner Monti Collins gave an emotional testimony of his own battles with prescription pain medicine stemming from surgeries he had in 2010 and 2012.
He said before and after, he was on “heavy painkillers.”
“I never did drugs any more than the painkillers I was prescribed, but I was hooked. I guess I thought I never took it to the ‘next level,’ I wasn’t addicted,” Collins said. “That’s just crap.”
Quitting painkillers, he said he didn’t go to a treatment facility but dealt with it at his home. “It was awful, and because I didn’t go to a professional for any medical or mental health, I truly am one of the lucky ones. That was not smart at all.”
Saying addiction can strike anyone, he said he was lucky to have a great support system of family and friends. Collins, who made a donation to the Re-Life Project, said his reasoning for giving his testimony was because “God knew that (Jameson and Fletcher) would ask me to tell my story.”
“I want you to know this could happen to anyone. A community leader, a bank executive at the time, a family man, a Sunday School teacher, it can happen to that person as easy as it happens to anybody,” he said. “We’re through it now but I’m still working as hard as I do everyday because I feel I need to remember those years and learn from those years.”
He acknowledged the scary nature of sharing such a personal story as an elected official in the age of social media. “I support this facility. If I lose an election but help somebody else in this community who learns from my experience, then it was all worth it,” Collins added.
“I ran for office saying that I care about my community and I want to give back to it, but I never ever thought it would be by telling this story and being a proponent of this facility, but maybe in the end that’s why I was put in this position,” he said.
Fletcher, who served as governor from 2003-07, spoke virtually on forming his organization during his time in office to help establish recovery programs, like the planned ones for Marshall and Calloway counties. There are currently 18 such centers in Kentucky, plus some in other states.
The planned facilities would cost $6-8 million. While seeking local donations and buy-in, Fletcher said funds are available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, federal and correctional funding, and grants. Annual costs could run around $1 million.
The local efforts have raised somewhere over $100,000. Those attending were presented pledge forms for the Re-Life program. For additional information, visit online at www.re-life.us.
Fletcher said community interest to build the needed facilities contrast that of another community in eastern Kentucky that lacks support.
“We have right now three generations within that jail — a father, son and grandfather. By the time they’re sentenced, they’ll already served their time,” Fletcher said. “They’re turned back into the community without any support services and you see two things: See them back in the court system or they overdose.”
He said releasing addicts without treatment increases the risk of an overdose death by 12 times. According to information provided at the forum, more than 4,400 people died in Kentucky between 2012-15 from a drug overdose.
Following the forum, the Drug Court held a graduation ceremony of people who have completed that program.