Vigo County has a fairly new problem solving court up and running. It’s similar to the Drug Court and Mental Health court, but instead, it aims to help those who’ve served.
Superior Court Judge John Roach has been working on the Veteran’s Court for the past three years. It’s an alternative to jail time for veterans charged with non violent crimes. A lot of time it has to do with substance abuse, mental health or traumatic brain injury situations. They started taking participants for the program this August and it’s gaining momentum.
Both Wendell Mccollough and Andrew Cowan understand a side of treatment that the court system can’t touch.
“We’ve walked a mile in their boots,” Wendell Mccollough said.
“I’m not a doctor, but if he wants to talk through something, we can,” Andrew Cowan said.
The men once trained for combat, now they’re on the front line of a new fight, serving as trained mentors for the Veterans Court. It’s a volunteer position that simply involves being there for participants. It didn’t take much for Mccollough to jump on board.
“I retired in 2014, during that time between 2014 to now, I’ve had a couple of soldiers commit suicide, and when that happened I felt like I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore,” he said.
Superior Court Division 1 Judge John Roach has a vested interest in the Veteran’s Court, a long standing military presence in his family. That’s one reason he’s been working since 2013 to see it up and running.
“It’s a way to honor that heritage, a way to give back and to give back to people who deserve it,” Judge Roach said.
But he knows the veteran pride as Mccollough describes it.
“Pride is a very serious thing when it comes to soldiers, that’s how come a lot of soldiers don’t want to get help because of their pride,” Mccollough said.
The success of the Veteran’s Court isn’t strictly measured by keeping veteran’s from behind bars, it’s also a success that lies in keeping them off the streets, working, providing for their families and of course away from substance use.
The court typically takes 18 to 24 months for participants to complete. They have to meet several benchmarks like staying sober, meeting with the court and successfully using resources.
The participants’ criminal activity is not readily available information for their mentors.
“There’s nothing that requires the mentee to share anything with me, that’s why you have to make a personal, one on one connection with them,” Andrew Cowan said.
Right now there are only six participants in the Veterans Court. Judge Roach says typically they see around 25. They have 13 mentors and he says they’re always looking. Mentees meet with their mentors at least once a week, but they stay in touch much more regularly.
Participants in the program meet in Veteran’s Court twice a month to go over their progress. Fees for the program cost users an initial $100 dollars and $50 each month.