When Grayson County’s Drug Court meets Monday to celebrate graduations, it will also celebrate a different kind of moving on. Long-time counselor Helen Perkins is retiring.
Perkins has been a member of the recovery community in Grayson County — in one way or another — for 30 years, and many of the folks who have worked alongside her call her “irreplaceable.”
“We will fill that position, but there is no replacing Helen,” Grayson County Adult Probation Department’s Deputy Director Jason Kirk, who has worked with Perkins for 18 years, said.
Kirk said Perkins worked with a local treatment provider and did contract work for the county even before she joined Adult Probation about 14 years ago when the drug court was formed.
“We have people who come back or who have graduated or have gotten off probation who come back and just want to talk to Helen — and she knows practically everybody,” Kirk said. “I would say that it’s her heart and just how much she cares for the people that we deal with and people in general really.”
Kirk said his greatest lesson from Perkins over the years has been compassion.
“There’s been a lot of times over where even the people that you think are beyond helping, Helen’s been able to reach,” Kirk said. “And she never really gives up on people.”
He added, however, that if Perkins said enough is enough for a particular person, then the rest of the group knows it really is time to move on from that person.
Perkins’ long tenure in the recovery community, Kirk said, means that she knows generations of families who have struggled with addiction and those people have come to know her and seek her out for their own battle with the disease. They trust her, he said, and she loves them.
First Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Kerye Ashmore has worked with Perkins on the Drug Court and said her love comes with a strong backbone.
“She has a unique blend of being understanding, but being tough enough to not fall for the many excuses we see,” Ashmore said. “She can love people, but also hold them accountable because she knows that’s what is best for them in the long run. I have come to rely on her insight in many cases.”
Ashmore said if he had to sum Perkins in up in one word, it would be “wise” and Rim Nall, retired judge of the 59th state district court and founder of Grayson County’s drug court, also listed wisdom as something that Perkins brought to the program.
Nall said her ability to understand and read people was instrumental to her ability to help people succeed in the program.
“She has seen so many people over the years that she has a pretty good idea of what’s going on inside their head and what type of services they need,” Nall said, adding “she was by far the wisest of all of the people on the team, just because of her years and years of experience with it.”
Nall also referred to her as the “foundation of drug court” and said she will absolutely be missed.
The drug court’s loss, however, could be the gain of other local organizations that work with those who are recovering from addition. Three Rivers Outreach Executive Director Bob Rhoden said he has known Perkins for years.
“She’s a great program resource because of all her years in sobriety herself, and because of all the years she has spent working with others,” Rhoden said recently. “There’s really no way to know how many lives she’s helped change because the effects of helping others overcome addiction is generational.”
Noting that Perkins is on the Four Rivers board, Rhonden added, “We here at Four Rivers are looking forward to Helen being able to spend more time with us because we know she’s not going to stop doing what she’s doing.”