Athens County Veterans Treatment Court - Athens, Ohio USA
What is the Athens County Veterans Treatment Court?
Judge George P. McCarthy is the presiding judge of the Athens County Veterans Treatment Court. The Veterans Treatment Court is a specialized docket court. It operates within the common pleas court to address cases involving veterans who have been admitted into the treatment program. Veterans include all branches of the military and include active service members, combat and non-combat service members, and generally anyone who has served in the military, Coast Guard, or similar organization whether in peace time or war, and whether or not deployed overseas.
Judge McCarthy began looking at these specialized docket courts in 2013. In 2014, he recruited community service providers and government agencies interested in being part of the program. The response was overwhelming community support for the idea and application was made to the Ohio Supreme Court for certification to operate. After a year of putting the components together for the treatment court, it was submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court for approval. In 2015, the Athens County Veterans Treatment Court received its initial certification to operate. In 2016 the Court received its full certification from the Ohio Supreme Court. In February 2017, the program successfully saw its first graduate.
The motto of the Athens County Veterans Court is “Reclaiming Your Life.” This program is designed to assist a Veteran in remaining a law abiding citizen, to supervise veterans in the criminal justice system, and to assist them with any mental health and substance abuse treatment needs they may have. The program also works to connect them to services within the Veterans Administration and to local community partners.
The goal is to give Veterans the tools and support necessary to deal with life’s issues so they can successfully manage any substance abuse and mental health issues so they can live a law abiding life, maintain sobriety and ultimately stay out of the criminal justice system.
This program includes regular court appearances before the Veterans Treatment Court Judge. Treatment is provided and supervised through the combined effort of the Athens Adult Parole Authority, the Veterans Administration (VA), the court and other community agencies. Participation usually includes individual and group counseling, good behavior, drug testing, and regular attendance in the treatment court program.
Why Should I do Veterans Court?
Because you are a veteran. Because you want to succeed. Because you rise to the challenge. Because you can do better. Because you can rise above where you find yourself. Because in Veterans Court you meet people who are committed to see you succeed.
The following information is general in nature and may have other requirements not listed below. Because the program is always evolving to be the best it can be, it may be modified at any time as the program develops. If interested in the program, Veterans currently charged with an offense are encouraged to contact their attorney to discuss the program as an option.
You may participate in this program independently or you may participate in this program as a component of the Athens County Prosecutor Diversion program.
Participants are required to sign an agreement. This contract is between the Veteran and the Court. The contract explains what is expected and the consequences for noncompliance. The Veteran agrees to work with a treatment team and the court to identify goals that the Veteran will work toward while in the program.
Goals may include trauma related treatment, returning to school/work, job-skills training, counseling, substance-use treatment, medication compliance, reconnecting with family/friends/peers, strengthening ties in the community, accessing benefits, and securing safe and stable housing.
The Veterans’ Treatment Court is separated into individual phases. Progress is closely monitored and reported to the Judge. The program is structured so that a person can typically complete the program in 1-2 years. Advancement through each phase is dependent on completion of specific criterion for each phase of treatment. Each phase may be lengthened or shortened depending upon each Veteran’s progress.
Phase 1: Orientation & Assessments. The veteran is introduced to the treatment team and given an orientation of the program. A veteran typically will undergo a drug/substance abuse assessment and a mental health assessment. The veteran's treatment needs will be assessed and addressed by the treatment team.
One of the strengths of the program is the inclusion of a Veteran Mentor. Veteran participants are assigned a Veteran Mentor with whom the veteran keeps in regular contact. The Veteran Mentor is someone who helps the veteran stay compliant with counseling requirements as well as acts a support person should the veteran have any difficulties or questions while going through the program. Veteran Mentors complete a training before being assigned to a veteran.
This phase typically lasts 1-60 days.
Phase 2: Treatment Plan Development & Progress Monitoring. The veteran works with the Treatment Team to develop and modify when necessary a treatment plan to address any individual needs of the veteran. Together with the Treatment Team, the veteran will formulate personal achievement goals in addition to treatment plan goals (GED, vocational/educational counseling, anger management, parenting skills, drug/alcohol counseling, etc.).
The participant must remain a law abiding citizen and not have any new criminal charges.
Phase 2 typically lasts roughly 60-90 days.
Phase 3: Ongoing Treatment & Monitoring. The treatment plan will be updated by the veteran and their counselor to identify treatment goals and objectives and to make any modifications if necessary. Counseling and meetings focus on identified items that need attention, including identifying ways to avoid and deal with stressful situations.
The participant must remain a law abiding citizen and not have any new criminal charges.
Phase 3 typically lasts approximately 90-120 days.
Phase 4: Ongoing Progress. Ongoing recovery needs are assessed. A veteran must remain drug free other than for prescribed medication. This phase focuses on daily living skills and is designed to support the veteran in returning to the community as a productive and responsible member.
Participants must complete a community “Give Back” hours or project. This is a chance for the Veteran to give back to the community by volunteering their time or helping with a project of their own design. Such projects could include talking to veteran groups, helping with the annual stand down project, community clean up, community improvement efforts, volunteering at food bank or homeless shelters, or other similar community driven ideas. The Veteran and their mentor work together to come up with a project or commitment that they want to do.Any fines and court fees need are required to be paid prior to graduation. The participant must remain a law abiding citizen and not have any new criminal charges.
Phase 4 typically lasts approximately 90-120 days.
Graduation. Upon successful completion of the required phases, a veteran graduates from the program. The veteran is hopefully in a position that will allow him/her to sustain their current lifestyle of sobriety and also remain law abiding. Follow-up includes contact with the Veteran Mentor to check if the veteran has any additional problems or needs that need to be addressed.
Are You Eligible?
Participants are a veteran or an active duty service member of the United States Military including members from the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, or Reserves. Veteran status includes those who has served in the military domestically or deployed overseas. Service members are required to provide a copy of their DD-214. You do not have to be honorably discharged to participate.
Legal Eligibility Guidelines
- Typically felony 3, 4, 5 level offense with prosecutorial consent;
- Can be enrolled for reasons such as a pre-trial condition of bond, as part of community control sentencing, diversion from incarceration/jail, upon probation violations, or other just cause.
- No history of serious or repetitive violence (reviewed by designated Prosecutor and Treatment Team)
- Participants have substance abuse and/or mental health issues that would benefit from supervision.
General Treatment Eligibility Guidelines
- Participant has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or other trauma, traumatic brain injury (TBI) mental health, substance use and/or related co-occurring disorder conditions.
- Must have an ability to understand and desire to participate in program. Must have identified treatment needs that can be met by the program and a willingness to engage the services provided.
- Participation in the program is a privilege and not a right. Those eligible apply to the program and are screened for acceptance.
A Fresh Start
Participating in the Veterans’ Treatment Court demonstrates that the veteran wants to improve his or her life by working closely with a dedicated Treatment Team to achieve recovery goals. The Veterans’ Treatment Court provides the opportunity to develop job skills, connect to available Veteran Administrative services, rebuild family and community ties, live a drug and crime free life, access benefits, engage in treatment rather than incarceration, stabilize living situations, and reconnect with Veteran peers.
Participants may qualify for diversion of their charges through this program and/or the prosecutor’s diversion program. Participants are encouraged to consult with their attorney to determine their eligibility.
Those who graduate from this and similar programs do remarkably well remaining law abiding. Statewide the re-offense rate is very very low and in some places there is a 0% re-offense rate.