According to Jackson County Circuit Judge Brent Benson, the county’s first-ever Veterans Court is well on its way to becoming a reality. After receiving the grant from Redemption Township Partners, a committee was formed, and the members are readying their very first meeting that will be attended by Veterans Affairs (VA). The Veterans Court program is considered to be a hybrid of mental health and drug treatment, catering to the extraordinary circumstances most veterans face during and after combat and the unique, detrimental effects these circumstances can have on their overall health and well-being.
“The biggest difference between this and Drug Court is that it makes use of mentors. Veterans Court without mentors is just Drug Court,” Benson stated.
Along with having mentors, if a veteran was prescribed a certain medication by the VA for an injury or ongoing issue, there are some medications that would not be allowed in Family Court or Drug Court; however, in Veterans Court, they could continue to take their prescribed medications.
Benson is also looking into finding a way to assist other counties, like DeKalb, that do not have this program, and they have a participant who would benefit from all the program offers. Benson stated in that case, he is checking into how he can assist or supervise for other judges in those counties.
“If anyone knows anyone who can benefit, even with charges, from this program, please contact me. This program or another like it may help,” Benson stated.
Benson also hopes to one day expand his program to include some cases in Family Court. It’s simply a matter of time before it becomes a reality.
As of now, the program has three mentors who have filled out their paperwork that are undergoing clearance in Montgomery. However, they are all male mentors.
“Ideally, we assign two mentors to each Veterans Court participant. We would like to have at least two females to assign to a female participant,” Benson stated.
Mentors must be veterans. To qualify as a veteran, you need to have served in the Armed Forces for at least 10 months of active duty in any capacity, whether in combat or not, and you must have obtained an honorable discharge.
The Veterans Court Program is in need of local veterans willing to make the time and effort to reaching out to other veterans, especially female mentors. They also accept donations to help pay for training. To learn more about how you can become a mentor to local veterans in need of your help and guidance, or if you would like to learn more about how you can contribute, or if you or someone you know would benefit from this program, contact Judge Benson’s office at 256.574.9350.