The Sedgwick County District Court will launch a new program for veterans to help them avoid incarceration and instead receive the resources they may need.
The court is in the process of creating a Veterans Treatment Court. The court connects veterans who find themselves in the criminal justice system to the resources they need to address mental health and other issues. The idea is to provide supervised treatment instead of jail or jail time.
As of October 1, there were 50 veterans in the Sedgwick County Jail.
“The need is there,” said Sedgwick County Judge Rodger Woods. “From my experience, again with drug treatment court, to see how it can really change lives and not just in a way that keeps participants out of trouble. I mean really life changing no only participants, but also family members, children and the whole community.
“And I think the same goes for the Veterans Treatment Tribunal.”
Woods also oversees the County Drug Court, an 18-month probation program for drug and alcohol treatment.
The conversation is still ongoing over the specifics and who will qualify for the Veterans Treatment Tribunal, but the funding and resources are there, according to Woods.
“With these resources available and the involvement of the community and their genuine desire to have a veterans treatment court, I think we really owe it to the community and the veterans to make it happen,” Woods said.
Johnson and Wyandotte County in northeast Kansas recently opened their own Veterans Treatment Courts. This is also part of a growing national movement to create more veterans courts.
“A growing number of veterans are suffering from substance use disorders, mental health issues (such as PTSD) and trauma (such as traumatic brain injury),” said a page of Justice for Vets lit.
“These issues can be exacerbated by the loss of structure and camaraderie seen in the military, and research continues to link substance use disorders to service-related mental illnesses. Such conditions increase the likelihood of involvement with the justice system.
The group says veterans treatment courts offer a solution to these problems.
Sedgwick County expects its program to begin next year.
“So it will start small and hopefully quickly and successfully grow and accelerate,” Woods said.