The Ottawa County Common Pleas Court has accepted its first participant in the Veterans Treatment Court, a specialized docket court established in 2020 with certification through the Supreme Court of Ohio.
The Veterans Treatment Court provides an opportunity for early intervention for veterans with mental health and substance abuse issues, reconnection with the Veteran community, and is a meaningful alternative to incarceration.
The program will work with all branches of service regardless of discharge status. The program targets individuals whose time in the service is related to their mental health, as well as substance abuse issues, and can work with up to 10 people.
“I am honored to provide a program to help those who have sacrificed and served our country. These individuals have my gratitude and I hope this program is an opportunity to restore their lives,” said Common Pleas Court Judge Bruce Winters.
In order to offset costs of the program, the Common Pleas Court applied for and was awarded with competitive grant funding from the Bureau of Justice Administration for personnel and training costs. Richard Dale, the Program Coordinator, is an Army Reservist and served in the Ohio
National Guard. He is passionate about providing supportive services to the veterans of Ottawa County.
“Veterans can have issues from when they served,” said Dale. “We see a lot of drug and excessive alcohol use and mental health issues, which are related to or exacerbated by their service.
“We want to help with any of those issues which led to their involvement with the criminal justice system.”
The Veteran’s Court is broken into different phases with different goals, which are individualized by each person’s needs, and is a minimum of 18 months long. Participants are linked with mentors from their service branch to provide added support.
The Ottawa County Common Pleas Court also operates the DATA Program (Drug Court) and Mental Health Court. There have been 45 total graduations from these programs.
There are more than 200 Specialized Docket Courts in Ohio, and the Supreme Court provides certification to ensure standards are upheld and that uniform practices are in place.