November 12, 2015 – Newnan, Georgia – Coweta County Justice Center
A ceremony is taking place early in the morning. The purpose is to honor veterans in Georgia and across the United States and to celebrate the opening of the Veterans Treatment Court (VTC).
Judge Joseph Wyant, our first judge to preside over the Court, tells the audience, “One of the best ways to honor the memories of those who have served is to take care of them. That, in a very simplistic term, is what we do at the Veterans Court.”
The primary purpose of the VTC is to enhance public safety by operating as an alternative to standard jailing or probation. Instead, it supports the healing of veterans with treatment such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, employment assistance, housing and other support services. In addition to the treatments available, veterans are also assigned a mentor who is also a veteran.
It is a voluntary treatment based program that is offered to participants charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses. The VTC serves all five counties in the Coweta Judicial Circuit – Coweta, Carroll, Meriwether, Troup and Heard
Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who initiated the Court, expresses the reasoning for the Court’s mission, his gratitude for our soldiers, and predicts the Court’s success.
“I’m very excited about this Court. These families have suffered a lot. We owe it to these families to make sure we do everything we can. I want to thank all of the veterans here who have served. I want to tell you that we want to help you … we do not want you to fall through the system; we want to put you front and center because you are important to us, and to your families, and your communities.”
The ceremony ends with Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer, a veteran himself, honoring those who gave to our country. “Those who have served, they have a resource that we can’t afford to pass up. That resource is the knowledge they have about patriotism and citizenship. We need that group of people in our society. We need for them to impart those lessons onto other members of society about patriotism and about citizenship.”
These, like many other men and women, put their faith in VTC years ago. Where are we today?
April 25, 2020 – Carrollton, Georgia
I had an opportunity to speak with Chief Superior Court Judge John Simpson, the current Judge of the VTC, about the status of the Court. He said, “VTC has been one of the most fulfilling, integrity driven, and successful initiatives within the criminal justice system. It is fulfilling because we are able to help so many veterans who might otherwise be in a state prison. It is integrity driven because it is simply the right thing to do. It has clearly been successful. The best example would be that since its inception, not a single veteran has received a sanction to justify a prison sentence.”
Today, the VTC utilizes evidence-based approaches in its delivery of services. The VTC continues to work closely with community providers for substance dependency treatment, mental health treatment, and related services. By providing coordinated substance dependency and mental health interventions with judicial oversight, the likelihood of re-arrest for any offense has decreased. This has resulted in a safer community and healthy veterans.
I would be leaving out one of the most important people who serve our courts and community if I did not mention Accountability Courts Manager Jennifer Barnett. She is extremely helpful, dedicated, and has been a huge part of the success of the VTC and our other accountability court programs.
However, there is a criterion that a veteran must meet before he or she is accepted as a participant.
Veterans who participate in the VTC must commit to 18 months in the program. Some eligibility requirements include:
1. Being honorably discharged from service;
2. Having pending felony or misdemeanor charges in the Coweta Judicial Circuit;
3. Residing within the five county circuit;
4. Meeting clinical criteria for substance use disorder and / or have a mental health diagnosis;
5. Not being subject to sex-offender registration; and
6. Having sufficient emotional stability, and mental and intellectual capacity to be capable of participation in the program according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
We are proud that the people of west Georgia care about our soldiers. We are prouder when we see that caring turn into action. We are grateful when we see the results.
For more information about Veteran’s Court, please call Jennifer at 770-683-0205.