State courts administrator presents grant to local drug court
Above: Judge Duncan Culpepper accepts a $16,225.62 grant from Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts Director Marty Sullivan in the main courtroom of the Hempstead County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon. 

Just before the Eighth North Adult Drug Court began a Wednesday afternoon session, time was taken for Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts Director Marty Sullivan to award grant funds to Judge Duncan Culpepper.

The funds, in the amount of $16,225.62, derive from settlement money the state received from opioid manufacturers. Sullivan also presented the Eighth North Adult Drug Court with a overdose kit containing doses of naloxone.

Sullivan, who said he was an eighth-generation Arkansan, spoke briefly during the presentation to explain how his career landed him in the role of state courts administration director and his journey to various drug courts around the state to present grant funding. 

"I had the opportunity, literally 22 years ago, as a kid to go to the [Arkansas] Supreme Court," Sullivan said. "I started as an intern, and I never left. I literally worked my way up through the organization. At the end of my internship, I took a position as an administrative assistant, did that through some college and then while I was in college, I got promoted to a mid-manager position. And then, seven years ago, the state court administrator, who was the longest serving state board administrator in the United States, retired after 35 years of service. And seven days after his announced retirement, the Supreme Court named me, so very humbled to say that, and I'm saying that because I've been lucky, and I've been blessed."

Sullivan said the highlight of his life had been the chance to get to know the Supreme Court's current Chief Justice John Dan Kemp, who began his career as a judge in 1977.  "He's a great man, but he was a judge on the circuit bench like Judge Culpepper. And he told me that he was about burned out and was thinking about retiring. And then he had the opportunity to start a drug court in his home circuit, which is in the north central part of the state. And he said 'It revitalized me.'  He ended up starting five of the adult drug courts, one for every county and his circuit."

As he became aware of the opioid settlement, Sullivan said he began to lobby for funds to help drug court clients.  He "had a conversation with people in the Attorney General's office. I said, 'Look, the individuals that are in these adult drug court programs for people like us--they just need a little help. You could give the judges some money, where they can help somebody that needs transitional housing, that can't pay their rent, or--somebody that's out struggling trying to find a job--f you get a job, you have to pay for childcare. And so we can help them with childcare for a month or two or help for transportation. And so that's how that conversation started."

The grant can be used for a number of purposes, according to an acknowledgment statement written by Culpepper, including transitional/recovery housing, medication management/prescriptions, naloxone and naloxone training, mental health/substance abuse treatment and recovery, GED and educational services, healthcare, childcare, food pantry, utility assistance, parenting classes and many others.

Sullivan added that he hopes the grant will be the first of many presented to the county.