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December 2017

Saturday, December 2
Seventh Annual Veterans Court Mentor Training - 12/2 - Missoula
8:15 AM
University of Montana Room 101 of the Alexander Blewett III School of Law
The seventh annual Veterans Court mentor training will be held on Saturday December 2, 2017 from 8:15 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., (Part 1), and Tuesday December 5, 2017 from 5:15 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., (Part 2), in Room 101 of the Alexander Blewett III School of Law. 

The free training is designed for any Veteran who would like to volunteer 4-6 hours per month to assist a Veteran involved in the criminal justice system.  The event is also open to anyone else interested in learning more about the court whether or not they are able to volunteer as a mentor.

Topics to be addressed include: The Role of Veterans Court Mentors; Overview of Missoula Veterans Court and Missoula's Criminal Court Systems; Cultural Competency and Overview of Veterans' Services. 

Interested persons may register by calling 258-4728 or emailing tdouglas@mt.gov. It is not necessary to register in advance to attend the training; registration is helpful for planning purposes.

Please circulate to anyone you think might be interested.

***

The Missoula Veterans Court was established in June 2011 through the collaboration of local Missoula courts and Veterans and the Montana VA. Veterans Courts are designed for Veterans whose criminal actions appear to stem from the stresses of war. Montana has three veterans Courts: Missoula, Great Falls and Billings; another is opening soon in Bozeman. Nationally, there are over 300 Veterans Courts.

The group who planned and implemented the Missoula Veterans Court recognizes that most Veterans return from service strengthened by their experience and readjust without a great deal of difficulty. A small number have a harder time re-integrating into their lives. An even smaller number experience significant readjustment difficulties and end up committing a crime, often in conjunction with substance abuse.

Because Montana has the second highest number of veterans per capita in the United States, this third group includes a large number of Montana veterans. As noted writer, United States Marine Corps Vietnam War Veteran Karl Marlantes has said, "When the peace treaty is signed, the war isn't over for the veterans, or the family. It's just starting."

Missoula's Veterans Court is designed for veterans charged with a crime who have a mental health challenge, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, and a substance use disorder. The court program, over a year in length, focuses on community-based treatment directed by a multidisciplinary court team. Participant compliance with court requirements and recommended treatment is monitored by the court at weekly court sessions. Incentives are offered to reward adherence to court conditions, and sanctions are imposed for non-adherence. Participants are drug-tested regularly, as outlined in each individual's treatment plan.

The court is based in District Court but draws cases from Municipal, Justice and District Courts. Participants are carefully screened prior to entry. They may be charged with any offense. Public safety is a high priority. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Services Organizations and individual Veterans are very engaged in the implementation of the Veteran's Court through participation on the Veterans Court team.

According to District Court Standing Master Brenda C. Desmond, who has presided over the Veterans Court since its inception, as of August 2017, the Court has had 50 participants. More than half of the participants have been combat Veterans of either Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. Several have been Vietnam veterans or veterans of the Gulf War and a few have been non-combat Veterans. The completion rate is over 80%, very high for any treatment program. Currently thirteen veterans participate in the court program.

With dedicated support from the local Veterans' community, the Missoula Court has also established a Veterans Court mentor program. Each court participant has a volunteer mentor, also a veteran, who supports the veteran participant as he or she goes through the program. The mentors view their role as that of a "trusted friend." Participants regularly comment that the support of their mentors is key to their success. To serve as a mentor, veterans must attend the annual training or watch the digital version, attend monthly one-hour meetings and meet with the participant once a week.

Contact: Brenda Desmond, bdesmond@mt.gov, 259-4728


Contact: 406-258-4728 or emailing tdouglas@mt.gov




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