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Veterans Treatment Court to honor first program graduate

In January 2016, Johnson County District Court held the first Veterans Treatment Court in the state of Kansas. Its mission — to identify veterans in the criminal justice system and, when eligible, to place them into treatment and court supervision as an alternative to incarceration.

On Feb. 15, VTC will graduate its first veteran from the program. District Court Judge Timothy P. McCarthy, who spearheaded the effort to bring VTC to the county, will preside over the graduation ceremony 2:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Johnson County Courthouse.

VTC offers two alternatives to jail time: a diversion track through the Johnson County District Attorney’s office and a probation track through Johnson County Court Services.

Both programs allow eligible veterans to voluntarily participate in a 12- to 18-month program composed of court appearances, drug and alcohol testing, treatment, recovery support meetings and a mentorship program.

VTC aims to help veterans who may be suffering from traumatic brain injuries, depression, substance abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder because of their military service.

Any eligible veteran can apply to the VTC program. To be eligible, you must be a Kansas resident and eligible for Veterans Affairs benefits or a resident of the county (for Mental Health Center services).

Veterans charged with low-level felony or misdemeanor offenses such as DUIs, drug-related charges or domestic violence charges will be considered for the program.

VTC is a collaboration between Johnson County’s Sheriff’s Office, Mental Health Center, District Court, Veterans Administration and the county’s Justice Information Management System.

Backgrounder

In 2008, Judge Robert Russell in Buffalo, New York, began the first docket dedicated to veterans after he saw an increase in the number of veterans appearing on his drug and mental health court dockets. Today, more than 250 treatment courts in 40 states offer services to military veterans. VTC programs in Missouri are available in Jackson and Clay counties and the city of Kansas City.