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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ind. Courts - "When drug, alcohol and legal problems converge, Veterans Treatment Court helps vets sort things out"

Mark Wilson has a long feature story this morning in the Evansville Courier & Press on the Vanderburgh County's Veterans Treatment Court. Some quotes:

Veterans Treatment Court is one of four treatment courts in Vanderburgh County. Superior Court Judge David Kiely oversees it, along with the county's Drug Court program. Veterans Treatment Court specifically addresses the issues of former military personnel caught up in substance abuse and mental health problems that have brought them in contact with the legal system.

It does so by working in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, coordinating local legal resources with broader VA resources.

"Everybody thinks about the young combat veterans coming back and having difficulty adjusting to the civilian world, but it's a broad range of veterans who need help. We have a lot of veterans from different eras," said Dr. Robin Sanabria, behavioral medicine clinic manager at the Evansville VA Health Care Center.

The court's 11 former and current participants range in age from 20 to 69 and include veterans of the Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Some, such as Castillas who served in the Panama Canal Zone, are not combat veterans. Many were unaware of the help available through the VA, said Jennifer Frye, a local case manager for the VA's Veterans Justice Outreach initiative.

"It's a really nice partnership between the legal system and the VA. It helps us make those services available to people who might not have known about them," Sanabria said.

The initiative involves collaborations by VA medical centers with local law enforcement and treatment service providers for the needs of veterans, striving to avoid unnecessary incarcerations of veterans with mental health or substance abuse problems and divert them into treatment, said Richard Kulich, Veterans Justice Outreach coordinator for the Marion, Ill., VA Medical Center. Working with local courts is an important part of that, he said, and Vanderburgh County is the only county with a Veterans Treatment Court among the 53 Tri-State counties covered by the Marion center.

"What we have done is basically network and coordinate resources already there and making sure they get help from the resources that are there for their benefit," Kiely said. "They are getting the best of both worlds, a county (drug court) case worker and a VA case worker."

Unlike the other drug court programs, Kiely said, the veterans court is open to people charged with misdemeanor as well as felony offenses. He said the court also tends to be more specific with the court-ordered treatment plans for the veterans because their individual needs can differ greatly.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 29, 2012 11:48 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts