Welcome to Livingston County Veterans’ Court
We are currently on the verge of having over 100,000 troops returned home addressing combat-related trauma. Veterans returning with mental illnesses and/or substance addictions which contribute to escalated suicide attempts, arrests, incarceration, divorce, domestic violence, homelessness, and despair.
The National Bureau of Veterans Affairs has recommended that communities try to address these special needs in the criminal justice system to coordinate individual responsibility between the criminal justice system, treatment, veterans’ services, and the community.
The formation of Veterans’ specialty courts are enabling courts to meet these specific needs of our veterans by increased specialized support for their sobriety, mental health, and connection to veterans’ services.
The Michigan Supreme Court has already signed several Treatment Court Administrative Papers establishing Veterans’ Courts and our state has many judges sharing information to continue to establish these specialty courts. Livingston County in coordination with the Ann Arbor Veterans’ Hospital is in a prime area to establish this type of court. The services provided by the Veterans’ liaisons to our Court will not add any financial burden to our County Board of Commissioners. Our Circuit, Probate, and District Courts are forming a non-profit organization to assist in raising monies to assist the specialty courts, which would include a Veterans’ Court.
Introduction to the Veterans’ Court
The goal of the Veterans’ Court is to divert eligible veteran-defendants from the traditional court process to a specialized criminal court docket that gives a greater focus on the faulty decision-making of veterans. Peer-to-peer and vet-to-vet mentoring is also an important part of the veterans’ court to help veterans build and achieve healthy goals.
In these courts, Veterans are identified through evidence-based screening and assessments. Their eligibility is determined by the Prosecutor, Probation Department, Veterans’ Services, and a Judge. Felonies and misdemeanors are considered. The Veteran voluntarily participates in a judicially-supervised treatment plan developed with a team of court staff, veteran health care professionals, veteran peer mentors, veteran health care professionals, and mental health professionals. The established individualized treatment plans and other conditions are periodically reviewed for appropriateness at regular monthly status hearings. During these reviews, incentives to reward compliance to court conditions, as well as sanctions for non-compliance, are utilized. Completion of their program is defined according to specific criteria.
The Veterans’ Treatment Court program is 18-24 months in length. Participant’s length of involvement in the Court is dependent on the participant’s ability to comply with Court orders, comply with treatment providers, and remain drug-free, the achievement of goals, and treatment team recommendations. Some participants will complete their involvement with the Court in 18 months, while those who violate, and are not terminated from the program, may be extended to 24 months.
The Veterans’ Court Team
The Veterans Treatment Court utilizes a team approach to treatment. The team approach allows the Court to individually tailor a treatment program to the Participant. The team is made of up of individuals representing different community organizations with cross-discipline experience in mental and substance abuse treatment, and many of whom are veterans themselves.
Veterans’ Treatment Court Presiding Judge – Hon. Carol Sue Reader
The Presiding Judge is the judicial authority of the Court. The Presiding Judge leads the treatment team and provides strategic plans and guidance.
Judge CS Reader is the founder & presiding Judge of two specialty courts. The Livingston County Intensive Treatment Court that assists with intensive supervision of participants who struggle with mental health issues. And the Livingston County Veterans Treatment Court that assists with intensive supervision of veterans that have been charged with a crime.
Judge CS Reader is the Co-founder, LACASA Livingston County Spouse Abuse Shelter. Originated in 1980.
Judge Reader also manages an intense criminal docket as well as divorce cases with children and is the Presiding Judge of the District Court.
Veterans’ Treatment Court Coordinator (VTCC)- Dawn Learst 517-540-7633
The VTCC is tasked with running the day-to-day operations of the Veterans’ Treatment Court. The VTCC ensures compliance with all applicable law, administers the state reporting database, screens applicants, ensures grant compliance, musters resources, coordinates all team efforts, and makes recommendations to the Presiding Judge.
Veterans’ Treatment Court Probation Officer (VTCPO) 517-548-1000
The VTCPO is a primary point of contact for a participant. The VTCPO ensures the participants compliance with all court orders, monitors drug and alcohol screening and testing, and makes recommendations to the Presiding Judge.
Veterans’ Justice Outreach Coordinator (VJO) Brad Watkins
The VJO is an employee of the VA. The VJO is a primary point of contact for a participant. The VJO is principally responsible to the Court for scheduling and referring participants for VA services and program. In addition, the VJO monitors the mental and physical health of the participants on an individual basis and makes recommendations to the Court as need and required.
Veteran Court Public Defender-Attorney Kevin Nagle 810-227-1700
Represents and informs participants of their rights should there be a pending violation. Assures that the participant’s rights are intact and protected.
County Veteran Affairs Liaison- Josh Parish
Helps coordinate the participant’s county benefits with the VA’s benefits. Assists with funding for participants when need arises and funds are available. Assists with transportation to and from appointments and helps with housing issues.
Veteran Mentor Coordinator
The Mentor Coordinator recruit, trains, supervises, counsels mentors and coordinates with the Veterans’ Court through the VTCC and VTCPO.
A veteran mentor acts as a coach, guide, role model, advocate, and support system for the participant.
Mentor – Info-
Courts must strike balance between TREATING the “justice involved veteran” and PROTECTING the community. Mentors will play a role on the team in striking that balance.
What is the role of the Mentor?
Unique, Complex, Critical!
Mentors provide resources or links to resources. They provide time. They help the veteran engage the various support systems and obtain the help they need. The justice-‐involved veteran has to navigate the court, their treatment, their life issues, and the VA. You can help them communicate their needs and issues and play a role in ensuring your veteran gets the help they need. 75% of the role is JUST BEING A FRIEND!
The mentoring program is an essential and vital part of any veterans’ treatment court. Experience has shown that veterans were more likely to respond more favorably with another Veteran than with others who did not have similar experiences. Veterans, when talking with other veterans, would be more relaxed and less tense about their situation. This change in demeanor makes a deeper impact on the lives of the veterans.
Duties and Responsibilities:
Veterans’ treatment court uses a hybrid integration of drug court and mental health court principles to serve military veterans, and sometimes active-duty personnel. They promote sobriety, recovery, and stability through a coordinated response that involves collaboration with the traditional partners found in drug courts and mental health courts, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare networks, Veterans Benefits Administration, state Departments of Veterans Affairs, volunteer mentors, and organizations that support veterans and veterans’ families (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2010). Veterans’ Treatment Courts promote sobriety, recovery, and stability through a coordinated response that involves cooperation and collaboration with community and state-wide partners. Veterans’ Treatment Courts also rely on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, the Veterans’ Benefits Administration, volunteer veteran mentors, and veterans and veterans’ family support organizations.
Source [Huddleston & Marlowe, National Drug Court Institute and United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, Painting the Current Picture: A National Report on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Court Programs in the United States (July 2011, p 47).]
Community Mental Health Journal published a study by Kraig J. Knudsen & Scott Wingenfeld on 2/15/15 and it is among the first to preliminarily evaluate the efficiency of a Veterans Treatment Court for veterans involved in the criminal justice system. The findings suggest that involvement in Vet Court services produce sustainable improvements in recovery and PTSD for participants. Despite study limitations, the results support the promise of this treatment approach for justice-involved veterans involved in the criminal justice system and lend a degree of empirical support to providing substance abuse and mental health services under the umbrella of a Veterans Treatment Court.