Michigan Veteran's and Mental Health Court - How they can help you avoid jail, and get the help you need to move forward in the right direction
The State of Michigan is home to almost one million military veterans. Some of these veterans find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Some of these legal issues stem from service-related medical problems. In Michigan, a growing number of courts are now implementing Veterans’ Treatment Courts. These courts take the veteran outside of the typical criminal justice system, and place them in a more supportive environment, which coordinates and maximizes available resources and benefits to the veteran.
When I work with a new client, one of the questions I ask is if the client has any present involvement in the military, or anything in their past. If so, the next question is whether or not the court we’re in has a Veterans’ Treatment Court, or if the court works with another court that has one. There are a few courts in Michigan, which allow a client to enter the Veterans’ Treatment Court of another district court.
If a client wishes to pursue a spot in a Veterans’ Court, then they will present their DD-214 form, which lists the service and discharge of the client. If my client does not have this form, we order the records from the National Personnel Records Center with the SF-180 form.
A Veterans Court offers a team approach similar to a sobriety court. It’s geared toward misdemeanor offenses, and can be considered a jail alternative; many of these offenses also involve substance abuse issues, which like the sobriety court, offer a comprehensive platform to deal with these issues with counseling, education and testing. What makes the Veterans Court different from sobriety court is the coordination of VA benefits such as treatment, medical help and housing. It’s also a welcoming setting, which shows appreciation to the veteran for their service in conjunction with the present help from the court.
Along with Veterans Court, some courts have a Mental Health Treatment Court, which is open to everyone. The Mental Health Court can be a problem solving court that offers therapeutic treatment for mental illnesses which lead to the offender breaking the law. Potential participants are recognized early by either their own attorney, the prosecutor of the judge.
The client is removed from the adversarial mainstream court process and placed in a community-based treatment setting, which looks to address underlying problems which lead to the criminal offense versus simple punishment. Along with mental health and substance abuse treatment, the mental health team connects participants with education, housing and jobs.
Instead of spending time in jail, and ignoring mental health issues, the real problems are tackled with the goal reducing recidivism and helping people get their life back on the right path.
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