Athens County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) - Athens, Ohio USA

Athens County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) Information

Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) Brochure - Brief summary of the program.

Application to VTC - Fill out and submit to the Court at any stage of proceedings, even precharging 
Veterans Treatment Court Program Description -- Talks about how the program works
Veterans Participation Handbook- Describes Participants Responsibilities

Athens County Veterans Treatment Court meets every Tuesday:  Staffing at 2:00 pm and Court with Participants at 2:30 pm
What is the Athens County Veterans Treatment Court?

Judge George P. McCarthy created the Athens County Veterans Treatment Court.   It deals with Veterans involved in the criminal justice system.   All veterans are generally eligible.  Some restrictions may apply.  

Judge McCarthy began work on bringing veterans treatment court  to Athens County 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. Since then it has had 14  graduates and was again recertified to operate through 2022. Just recently the program received its third certification by the Ohio Supreme Court to operate through 2027!

Program Summary
The motto of the Athens County Veterans Court is “Reclaiming Your Life.”   This program is designed to assist  Veterans involved in the criminal justice system to obtain treatment for any mental health and substance abuse issues, remain sober, and remain law abiding citizens, all while taking charge back of their life.  We do this in large part by  helping them connect t o services within the Veterans Administration and  our participating local community partners. 

The goal is to help Veterans obtain the tools and support necessary to deal with life’s issues so they can successfully manage any stress and maintain their sobriety.    When sobriety is challenged they learn to treat their substance abuse and mental health issues to avoid backsliding and if they stumble, to resume sober living immediately by relying on the tools they have obtained.  Ultimately, Veterans  live a law abiding life, maintain sobriety and ultimately stay out of the criminal justice system with the help of the treatment team. 

This program includes regular court appearances before the Veterans Treatment Court Judge. Treatment is provided and supervised through the combined effort of the  the Veterans Administration (VA), the court and other community treatment/counselling agencies.  Participation usually includes individual and group counseling, good behavior, drug testing, and regular attendance in the treatment court program.

To graduate Veterans must remain sober 180 days minimum, obtain stable housing and be compliant with counselling treatment and goals.  Veterans must also complete a community service give back project, and pay any fines and costs before they can graduate. 

Why Should I participate in 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! Ultimately completion can result in reduced or dismissed charges or diversion from prison or jail. 

How/When do I get into VTC?
 We want to get you involved as early as possible so many are entered into the program at the arraignment stage.  Others may come in from being sentenced.  Others may come in after exiting from jail or prison or as a condition of bond. Veterans currently charged with an offense are encouraged to contact their attorney to discuss the program as an option. or in conjunction with the ACE Diversion program. 

What do I have to do to get started? Discuss VTC with your attorney.  There is an application to fill out.  Come to Court on Tuesday at 2:00 pm and check in at Judge McCarthy's Office.  There are additional forms to fill out you can go over with your attorney.  We need a copy of your DD-214.  This can be obtained at the Athens County Veterans Service Office.

What do I do in the Program? Participants are required to sign an agreement that explains what is expected and the consequences for noncompliance. The Veteran agrees to work with a treatment team and the court to identify goals and agrees to work towards those goals.  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.

How Long is the program?  Generally 1-2 years. But we have had people graduate in as little as six months. 

What is a Veteran Mentor? Participants are paired with a Veteran Mentor (VM) whom they are required to contact once a week by calling or texting.   This promotes accountability and makes sure the Veteran is not in crisis.   The VM helps guide the participant through the program.  The VM is probably one of the biggest reasons for the success of the program!

What is a Give Back Project? Participants must complete a community “Give Back” hours or project.  Veterans  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, mowing grass for the elderly, helping with food boxes,, helping with the Athens Stand Down, community clean up, 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. 

Graduation. If a participant is in  compliance with counselling, has maintained sobriety for 180 days, obtained stable housing, and remained a law abiding citizen,  graduation is close!  The veteran has gained the tools to allow him/her to sustain their current sobriety, to recognize when they are struggling and to take the necessary steps themselves to maintain  sobriety.   

Who is  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. 

General Treatment Eligibility Guidelines

  • Participant has either mental health or substance abuse issue or both.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or other trauma, traumatic brain injury (TBI) mental health, substance use and/or related co-occurring disorder conditions.  Participants can have either or both. 
  • 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. 
  • Must obtain a substance abuse and mental health screening through VA or private care, and agree to follow recommendations. 

A Fresh Start

Participating in the Veterans’ Treatment Court demonstrates that the veteran wants to improve their 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.

Helpful Links:

Chillicothe Veterans Administration Health Care
Athens Veterans Administration Community Based Outpatient Health Care (CBOC)
Ohio Department of Veteran Resources
Ohio Veterans Courts

Ohio State Bar Association’s Comments on Veterans Courts.

Justice for Vets