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Veterans Treatment Court Operational Tune-up Training planned

Published: July 11, 2018

AKRON––The Summit County Valor Court will be hosting a Veterans Treatment Court Operational Tune-Up training provided by Justice For Vets, a division of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP). The training will be held tomorrow and Friday.

Valor Court was one of three veteran’s treatment courts (VTC) nationwide selected to host the training.

The training will consist of five VTC teams from Valor Court, Akron Municipal Valor Court, Cleveland Municipal Court’s Veterans Treatment Specialized Docket, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Veterans Treatment Court and Stark County Honor Court. Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) personnel and treatment providers comprise a treatment team.

Each court’s treatment team, as well as law enforcement, will receive training geared towards implementing proven best practices and evidence-based practices into their courts.

This comes at a time when more and more veterans are returning from the battlefield and are struggling to reenter civilian life.

In northeast Ohio, it’s estimated that approximately 250,000 veterans reside in the region, many of whom are living in the counties that are represented by the five VTCs participating in the training.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that approximately one-third of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have reported mental health or cognitive problems; 18.5 percent of service members have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and 19.5 percent report having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that 25 percent of veterans have a substance use disorder and are twice as likely to abuse prescription medications as civilian populations. Furthermore, the VA estimates that 2 out of 10 veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder.

Criminal justice research indicates a relationship between crime and those diagnosed with a mental health disorder and/or chemical dependency, bolstering the necessity for specialized problem-solving courts like VTCs.

As such, VTCs understand that veterans and their families made sacrifices and have experiences civilians have not experienced. In place of a punitive approach, VTCs apply a therapeutic one tailored towards their military experiences to address the underlying issues that have contributed to veterans, as well as active-duty service members, committing low-level felonies.

“It’s difficult to transition from a life shaped by risk, uncertainty and survival - which becomes normal - back into a civilian lifestyle that now doesn’t feel normal,” said Judge Amy Corrigall Jones. “PTSD, TBIs and other conditions compound that feeling. Without the appropriate treatment and support, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol can seem like the only means to cope and as is the case with anybody, that will lead some to commit crimes.”

In an effort to treat such issues, participants receive VA services, drug, alcohol and/or mental health treatment through the VA and other treatment providers; mentoring, case management, other community-based services and the court’s encouragement and accountability.

Participants develop a treatment plan and attend court sessions regularly to provide updates on their progress, treatment and allow for therapeutic adjustments made by the treatment team.

Throughout program involvement, participants are under the supervision of their prospective probation departments. Participation in VTCs is voluntary and typically lasts a minimum of one year.

“My colleagues and I have seen many veterans get the help they need to restore honor and achieve success but I believe we can do even better,” said Judge Corrigall Jones. “My hope is that through this training, we will gain more knowledge, expand collaborations and enhance our service to veterans and their families.”