It’s not uncommon to hear specialty court graduates say that the treatment they received saved their life and gave them back their family. In early May, the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 17 presented the Eighth Judicial District Court, Veteran’s Court, with a check for $3,000. Presiding Criminal Division Judge Michael Villani accepted the check on behalf of the specialty court that is aimed at helping veterans get their lives on track. The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 17 is comprised of members who raise and distribute funds to organizations that help veterans who are experiencing difficulty, such as those in veterans’ court. This is the third year the group has contibuted funds that go to helping veterans achieve success in veterans' court.

“We want to smooth the road for veterans who are experiencing tough times and help veterans who are getting into the trouble stay on the straight and narrow,” said Mike Mattingly who presented the donation for Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 17. The money was raised through the organizations East Charleston thrift store and fundraisers that they do throughout the year.

Since Sept. 2012, veterans’ court is one of several Eighth Judicial District specialty courts that save millions of tax dollars by averting repeated incarcerations due to substance abuse offenses and related crimes. There are currently 43 active participants in veterans’ court. So far in fiscal year 2019, 76 veterans have been treated and 19 participants have graduated. That equates to hundreds of people who can rest easier knowing their family member has turned their life around and millions of tax dollars saved in averted incarceration costs.

Veterans’ courts are hybrid drug and mental health courts that use the drug court model to serve veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. They promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated response that involves cooperation and collaboration with the traditional partners found in drug and mental health courts and agencies.    

Specialty courts solve issues through a rigorous and coordinated approach between judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, Parole and Probation, law enforcement and mental health/social service/treatment professionals. All work together to help participants recover, live crime-free and become productive citizens. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals reports: “nationwide, 75 percent of drug court graduates remain arrest-free at least two years after leaving the program. Drug courts reduce crime as much as 35 percent more than other sentencing options.”