Delaware Veterans Treatment Court seeks mentors

DOVER — The first step in a six-to 18-month journey is the toughest.
Entering Delaware’s Veterans Treatment Court requires homework assignments, counseling, group therapy and more, including monthly court appearances for status updates.

The former military women and men are often suffering from substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and a litany of mental health issues. Criminal offenses can come with the struggles.

“Veterans don’t like to ask for help,” said 20-year Army veteran Gail Gartner, part of the volunteer mentor program that assists past military personnel in need.
“They don’t see they have a problem until them hit rock bottom and enter the justice system.

“This court provides a path for regaining a more stable place in the world instead of facing the challenges that come with involvement in the legal system on their own.”

Oh, but the payoff is worth it. Generally speaking, only two percent of enrollees commit crimes following successful completion of the program.
Diversion is at the crux of the mission along with probation status management following conviction.
Mentors provide their expertise and support in guiding fellow veterans in need through the legal system.
“We can provide support and encouragement and there’s some peace in them knowing that we’re seeing them on a consistent basis and that they’re not alone,” Ms. Gartner said.

Simply put, they need help from someone who cares and at least has a basic understanding of their needs. Additional mentors — military veteran volunteers — are needed and interested candidates can email cecilia.gonzalez2@VA.gov.

Violent, domestic violence or sexual offenders are not accepted, and Class A and B felonies rule out program participation. Once the diversion program is completed the State dismisses charges against the veteran.
Owe the veterans
Kent County Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. — a retired Delaware Army National Guard colonel — was key in the program’s 2011 debut.
“Frankly it’s the most enjoyable thing I do in court,” Judge Witham said.

“We owe it to the veterans who have sacrificed themselves and their families to pay them back by offering something other than incarceration as a solution to the troubles they may face.”
Judge Witham, Judge Jan. R. Jurden and Veterans Treatment Course Case Manager Miranda Klein prepared the manual outlining the program’s framework.
There are currently more than 100 veteran participants statewide, each with a unique program tailored to their needs.

“We do not ask you to change who you are and I think that is something that many veterans who have been involved here would agree with,” Specialty Court Case Manager Alexandra McGee said.
“Our goal is to help bring out the best version of themselves and help them to understand they are worth it and people do care.

“We understand that people make mistakes and we want to give Veterans the opportunity to recognize and correct those mistakes while learning how to cope better with situations so that those mistakes are never made again.”

The collaborative effort combines resources from Delaware Superior Court, Department of Veterans Affairs, Delaware Department of Justice, Office of Public Defender, Treatment Access Center and Delaware Substance Abuse and Mental Health together.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment