Veterans in Fayette may get their own rehab court

Fayette State Court Judge Jason Thompson. Photo/Ben Nelms.
Fayette State Court Judge Jason Thompson. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Fayette County could be getting a Veterans Treatment Court if a grant application approved Feb. 28 by the Fayette County Commission is successful.

Fayette County State Court Judge Jason Thompson at the Feb. 28 meeting made the request to have commissioners approve the application for a grant that would help establish the Fayette County Veterans Treatment Court. Thompson said the Griffin Judicial Circuit does not have a veterans court.Commissioners approved the request by unanimous vote.

If approved, the $118,169 grant from the Council of Accountability Court Judges would include a 10 percent local match that would come from existing court funds.

Thompson said a veterans court would serve a similar purpose as the Fayette County DUI Court, which since its inception in 2016, has saved county taxpayers more than $450,000 and has reduced recidivism, promoted rehabilitation, created pro-social behavior in the community and strengthened core values.

Thompson said the goal of establishing the Fayette County Veterans Treatment Court is to divert eligible veteran-defendants with substance dependency and/or mental illness who are charged with misdemeanor criminal offenses to a specialized criminal court docket.

The court substitutes a treatment and problem-solving model for traditional court processing. Veterans are identified through evidence-based screening and assessments. The veterans voluntarily participate in a judicially supervised treatment plan developed with the veteran, and drawing from a team of court staff, veteran healthcare professionals, veteran peer mentors and mental health professionals, said Thompson.

The veterans treatment court anticipates 10 participants for FY 2020.

The grant funding will be requested to begin on July 1. If not approved, Thompson said he would go “back to the drawing board” to find another way to accomplish the goal.

The approval by commissioners was followed by applause from the audience, including a number of veterans and those working with veteran-affiliated organizations.