Veterans Treatment Court is designed to assist veterans who have become involved with the criminal justice system and suffer from mental health issues and/or substance use disorder. Many of these men and women have been affected by their military service through combat trauma, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other problems.
The Department of Specialty Courts launched Kentucky’s first VTC in Jefferson County in 2012 and now also has programs in Christian, Fayette and Hardin counties. In addition, the Northern Kentucky VTC serves Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties.
Eligible participants volunteer to participate in the program. They may have had an honorable discharge and do not have to qualify for services through the Veteran Benefits Administration to be eligible for VTC.
VTC combines the principles used in Drug Court and Mental Health Court to help veterans achieve stable mental health and recover from substance use disorder. The program provides court-supervised treatment as an alternative to incarceration and supports veterans with services to address the issues that contributed to their criminal behavior. These services include treatment for substance use disorder and/or mental health, connection to benefits, and help with housing, employment and education. Camaraderie with fellow veterans is also an important part of the program and volunteer mentors meet with the veterans to provide encouragement.
It takes approximately 18 months to two years to complete the VTC program, depending on the level of services needed and the progress made by the veteran. Veterans who successfully complete the program may have their charges dismissed through diversion or be granted conditional discharge through probation.
VTC programs are implemented and guided by teams of judges, Drug Court staff, veterans’ agencies, mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers, law enforcement, the legal community and community members. Team members identify veterans’ needs and connect them with services. VTC teams receive training on the state level and seek training through the Veterans Treatment Court Planning Initiative of the National Drug Court Institute. Judges volunteer their time to the program.
The Department of Specialty Courts receives federal grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The funding provides treatment and support services to veterans and employs case managers who work closely with Drug Court, the Veterans Health Administration and other community partners to help veterans involved with the criminal justice system.
Veterans who are interested in being considered for VTC can be referred by a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation officer, pretrial officer, Veterans Justice Outreach coordinator or a VTC team member.