Veterans Treatment Court

Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment given their past experiences in the Armed Forces.

justice4vetsI’ve complained before about the often empty statement “support our troops,” as though sticking a flag decal was actually doing something. Here’s the story of a guy who did.

“The first Veterans Treatment Court was founded by the Honorable Robert Russell in Buffalo, New York in January 2008, after he noticed an increase in the number of veterans appearing on his Drug Court and Mental Health Court dockets. Judge Russell saw firsthand the transformative power of military camaraderie when veterans on his staff assisted a veteran in one of his treatment courts but also recognized that more could be done to ensure veterans were connected to benefits and treatment earned through military service.”

So what is a Veterans Treatment Court? “The Veterans Treatment Court model requires regular court appearances (a bi-weekly minimum in the early phases of the program), as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and frequent and random testing for substance use (drug and/or alcohol). Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment given their past experiences in the Armed Forces. However, a few will struggle and it is exactly those veterans who need a Veterans Treatment Court program the most. Without this structure, these veterans will reoffend and remain in the criminal justice system. The Veterans Treatment Court is able to ensure they meet their obligations to themselves, the court, and their community.”

The concept has gotten some media coverage. I had seen the CBS News story. There are only about 220 Veterans Treatment Courts across the country, with a protocol for setting them up. To participate in VTC Planning Initiative, “each community must identify ten individuals representing the following disciplines to form a Veteran Treatment Court planning team, including Judge, Prosecutor, Defense counsel, Community Treatment provider, Treatment Court Coordinator, Community supervision representative, Law enforcement Evaluator/researcher, Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator, and Mentor coordinator.”

One can find out more about the VTC program here.