By Phil Riddick
County Commissioner-District 5
As we honor those who have served our country, I want to share information about Veterans Court. Madison County is honored to have the Twenty-Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Ruth Ann Hall overseeing our Veterans Court, and I so appreciate her willingness to provide the following summary of the Veterans Court program.
The Veterans Court program will typically be an average of at least twelve months in duration for the participant. The program will require at least monthly appearances before the Veterans Court judge coupled with at least monthly meetings with a participant’s counselor and/or mentor. A participant will likely be required to participate in medical and mental health services, job training and professional services, academic and/or vocational skill improvement services and whatever counseling is designated for a participant. Furthermore, any substance abuse counseling or treatment that is recommended or required must be attended and completed as dictated by the Court or its referral officers. Finally, the participant will be responsible to pay any court ordered monies for restitution.
As a condition of participation, all participants must consent to random drug screening and/or color code participation as determined by the treatment team and presiding judge. Each participant must abstain from all alcohol or other mood-altering chemicals or other medications unless disclosed to the Court and approved by the Compliance Panel.
A vital aspect of the Veterans Court program and ensuring the success of our veterans is its team of volunteer veteran mentors. This pool of mentors includes those who have served in various conflicts and branches of the United States Armed Services. While in court, the veteran will be assigned a mentor who will discuss any ongoing problems or issues of interest. The role of the mentor is to act as a coach, guide, role model, advocate, and a support person for the individual veteran participant with whom he/she is working. As the mentor works with the veteran, they problem-solve existing issues, bringing them to the attention of the court for assistance in resolution if necessary.
The goal of the mentor is to foster a relationship of confidence with the veteran helping the veteran to accomplish their treatment goals and improving their chances for law-abiding behavior in the future. The mentor is intended to encourage, guide, and support the mentee as they progress through the court process. This can include listening to the concerns of the veteran and making general suggestions, assisting the veteran to determine what their needs are, and acting as a support for the veteran at a time when they may feel alone in a way that only another veteran can understand.