In 2012, Michigan had just six veterans treatment courts. Today, that number has more than tripled to twenty, and Michigan leads the country in the number of veterans treatment courts.
These courts are a type of “problem-solving court,” which are courts tailored to a specific population of people or addressing a certain realm of issues. The veterans’ treatment courts use a hybrid of drug court and mental health court principles to serve military and veterans, as well as active-duty personnel.
This past Veterans Day, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. praised the growth of these courts: “Veterans treatment courts are growing because they are working. Today, we are seeing firsthand that this initiative is saving lives and strengthening communities by helping veterans rebuild productive lives with their families.”
These courts promote sobriety, recovery, and stability to help veterans deal with serious problems of addiction, mental illnesses, and other disorders. Through a coordinated response that involves collaboration with the Veterans Affairs health care networks, Veterans Benefits Administration, the state DAV, and volunteer mentors and organizations that support veterans and their families, these courts are able to steer veterans clear of jail or prison time.
Indeed, these programs have helped veterans turn their lives around, avoid costly incarceration, and help reintegrate veterans into their communities and families. The program is a part of the state Supreme Court’s broader mission to help local trial courts implement best practices that improve service to the public. Michigan currently has 174 problem-solving courts that reach a reported 97% of Michiganders.
In November, the Michigan Supreme Court held a Veterans Treatment Court Forum, which brought together judges, administrators, mentors, and veteran graduates of these programs. Workshops were held to discuss the issues veterans face and the resources needed for these courts to properly address those issues – suicide prevention, online veterans assistance programs, and recruiting veteran mentors to be vital line of support for people in the program.
“Military veterans accused of crimes often present unique issues related to their military service,” said Judge Richard Bell, who presides over the Ingham County Veterans Treatment Court. “The veterans treatment court is able to bring a variety of resources to the issues presented by the veteran charged with a crime, and more often than not is able to redirect the veteran into the adoption of a positive lifestyle.”
In a year where good news for veterans has been at a shortage, at least Michigan veterans and their families can look to the growth of these courts as a positive. These courts offer the opportunity to address the underlying issues common to veterans. While it may be unfortunate circumstances that lead a veteran to these courts, veterans can count on these programs to give them a great opportunity to be reintegrated with their families and communities.
If you are a veteran and have criminal misdemeanor issues or VA disability issues, contact us for assistance.