State of Florida Funding Expands Collier County Veterans Treatment Court
August 24th, 2016
Thanks to the advocacy efforts of Senator Garrett Richter and Representative Kathleen Passidomo, along with the approval of Governor Rick Scott, David Lawrence Center in conjunction with the 20th Judicial Circuit Court received a legislative appropriation for $105,000 to formally establish and expand the Collier County Veteran’s Treatment Court.
According to the National Association of Drug Court professionals, “one in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment. One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffers from a substance abuse issue. Research continues to draw a link between substance abuse and combat–related mental illness. Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.”
Veteran’s Court is modeled after Drug Court, which began in Collier County in 1999, and Mental Health Court, which launched in Collier County in 2007. It is designed to coordinate mental health and substance abuse services for adults with former military service who suffer from a military-related mental illness, traumatic brain injury or substance abuse disorder and have been arrested for a criminal offense.
The goal of Veteran’s Court is to provide veterans with effective treatment and rehabilitation as well as alternatives to incarceration so they will have the skills necessary to maintain a drug-and alcohol-free life, abide by the law, and establish positive and productive relationships with their families, their employers and their community. Any veteran with a history of military service regardless of their discharge status are eligible for evaluation into the program.
This new funding allowed for the addition of two new clinical staff who are both veterans to provide case management, outreach and peer mentoring support services. These team members will help identify appropriate candidates earlier soon after arrest and then provide them with more intensive support and supervision – a model proven highly effective in Mental Health Court.
Additional services provided by the David Lawrence Center include: jail outreach and assessment services; case management; substance abuse and mental health treatment services, including drug and alcohol testing; rehabilitation guidance; and employment and housing assistance.
Through this structured, court-based program which lasts an average of 12 months, participants attend court regularly where their progress in treatment is discussed with the entire team, including the Judge. A participant’s successful completion of the program and all probation terms may lead to reduction or even dismissal of their charges. Entry into the program is voluntary, but once accepted, compliance is required.
Honorable Janeice Martin, who presides over all three Collier County treatment courts, states, “The State Attorney’s Office has done an excellent job of selecting and approving the really tough cases that need us the most, and now our Team is equipped to more effectively manage the needs of those veterans while also holding them accountable.”
The Veterans Treatment Court is a community-coordinated effort between the David Lawrence Center, Office of the State Attorney, The 20th Judicial Circuit Court, Department of Corrections, Office of the Public Defender, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, the Veterans Administration and the Veterans Helping Veterans Volunteer Mentor Corps.