Michael Moreland, VA’s Network Director (VISN 4), John Gennaro, VA Butler Healthcare’s Director, President Judge Thomas Doerr, and Judge Timothy McCune signed a Memo of Understanding (MOU) to begin a new Veterans Treatment Court in Butler County. Judge Timothy McCune will preside as the Judge in Butler County’s new Veterans Treatment Court.
“I am honored to serve as the Judge for the new Veterans Treatment Court, and excited to partner with VA Butler Healthcare to assist Butler County Veterans,” said Judge McCune. “Veterans Treatment Courts have proven to not only assist individual Veterans to live productive law-abiding lives, but to save resources, reduce crime and make communities safer.”
The goal of Veterans Treatment Courts is to divert those with mental health issues and homelessness from the traditional justice system and to give them treatment and tools for rehabilitation and readjustment. While Veterans Treatment Court allows the Veteran to remain in the community while undergoing treatment, a judge regularly checks on the Veteran’s progress. If the Veteran fails to meet the requirements of the program — for example, if he or she fails drug screenings or disobeys court orders — the Court will impose sanctions which may include community service, fines, jail time, or transfer out of Veterans Treatment back to a traditional criminal court.
“Building on the success of Veterans’ courts around the nation, Butler County’s court will connect Veterans with needed VA treatment and services,” said John Gennaro, VA Butler Healthcare Director. “The brave men and women who have served their country deserve our support when they need it.”
In 2011, of the Veterans’ caseloads reviewed by the Butler County Probation Office, 56% had been homeless (at least once), 62% suffered from mental health issues (42% of those suffering from PTSD), and 47% suffered from substance abuse issues. Veterans can face challenges transitioning back to civilian life and the new Veterans Court is specifically designed to work with these Veterans.
Veterans Treatment Courts were first started in 2008 in western New York by Judge Robert Russell, who based the idea on making a hybrid court—one that took aspects of popular drug and mental health courts already established across the U.S. By early 2010, there were 24 operational Veterans courts—from Buffalo to Los Angeles. Today there are over 95 Veterans Treatment Courts nationwide, with more on the way.
In addition to the many Veterans Treatment Courts nationwide, VA has a national program that provides direct services to justice-involved Veterans called Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO). VA established the Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative to educate the legal system, law enforcement, and jails on unique issues facing today’s Veterans. Once Veterans enter the legal system, VJO specialists help them avoid unnecessary incarceration through integration into VA substance and mental health treatment programs.
“We are committed to the principle that when mental illness plays a role in a Veteran’s involvement with the criminal justice system, both the Veteran and the community are better served by treating the Veteran’s mental illness rather than just incarcerating him or her,” said Brad Schaffer, VA Butler’s Veteran Justice Outreach Coordinator.
VA Butler Healthcare’s Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) program, which has served 652 Veterans since 2009, exists to connect justice-involved Veterans with the treatment and other services that can help prevent homelessness and facilitate recovery. VA Butler’s VJO Coordinator functions as a link between VA, Veterans, and the local justice system. Although VA cannot treat Veterans while they are incarcerated, the VJO Coordinator provides outreach, assessment and linkage to VA and community treatment, and other services to both incarcerated Veterans and justice-involved Veterans who have not been incarcerated. For more information, contact VA Butler's VJO Coordinator at 800.362.8262, ext. 2240.