A newly-established specialty court is hoping to reduce recidivism rates of veterans in Adams County who have tangled with the law.
Adams County Court for Veterans (ACCV) offers innovative and non-traditional approaches that integrate treatment and criminal justice case processing for veterans who struggle with substance abuse, mental health or other behavioral health issues.
ACCV is an outgrowth of specialty programs like drug and family courts. Judge Brian Bowen said that many veterans are entitled to benefits that run-of-the-mill defendants are not, and that it made sense to get those veterans connected to those services.
“We're excited about the opportunity to help out those who have served our country,” he said.
Jess Redman, Adams County assistant district attorney, said that the court is a collaborative effort among those in the criminal justice system, Veterans Administration and treatment providers and it is to address a deeper seated issue a veteran may be going through.
“The idea is not to give preferential treatment, but clearly veterans go through a lot, there are a lot of things they've done, or seen that other individuals haven't — this gives them an opportunity to address their different needs,” he said.
Bowen said the program can run between 12 and 24 months and helps veterans get access to housing, education, substance abuse treatment and mental health programs if needed. Veterans can be referred by law enforcement officials, probation officers, the DA's office and judges.
The program is looking for high-risk, high-need individuals who have serious issues or charges with the courts or are repeat offenders, Bowen said. The first veteran has been accepted into the program and officials are screening other candidates at this time.
Bowen said he wasn't sure if they'll be able to help six, 60 or 600 veterans. According to the ACCV, there are about 30,000 veterans in Adams County.
“Part of our philosophy is if we can help even one veteran who sacrificed for us then it's worth our time,” he said.
One of the key components of the program will be the mentors, who also will be veterans. Mentors will help veterans through their readjustment to civilian life and help them navigate the court, treatment and VA systems.
Redman said it is important that the mentors are veterans because they will understand the different struggles and issues another veteran is facing.
The program is looking for mentors of both genders, of all ages and who served on active duty for the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard, or served in the Reserves or National Guard.
“We're hoping to get a broad spectrum of people so we can match them up better,” Bowen said.
If you would like to find out more about the ACCV, call Penny Moya at 303-654-3340 or Simone Jones at 303-654-3230.
According to the ACCV, there are approximately 30,000 veterans in Adams County.