TULSA—Tulsa County Veterans Treatment Court, managed by the Community Service Council, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary from 2-3 p.m., Mon., Dec. 10 in courtroom 605 of the Tulsa County Courthouse, 500 S. Denver Ave., immediately prior to the week’s court docket beginning at 3 p.m.
The need for a special court docket for veterans became clear after 158 veterans were arrested in Tulsa County in October 2008. In December 2008, Tulsa became the first Veterans Treatment Court in Oklahoma and the third in the United States when 12 veterans were recognized that first. Over the past decade, more than 200 veterans have completed the program and avoided prison.
“Tulsa County Veteran’s Treatment Court serves veterans who served our country and helps them overcome addiction and mental health issues to return them to the life of honor that they deserve,” said Judge Rebecca Brett Nightingale, Tulsa County District Judge who presides over the veteran’s treatment court docket and also serves on the Community Service Council board of directors.
Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) helps those who served our nation and who have been charged with a criminal offense following the drug court model which has proven effective in handling criminal cases of those suffering from substance abuse disorders, restoring lives and preventing future arrests. VTC has an 89% completion rate, with 100 justice-involved veterans participating at any given time.
“The Community Service Council (CSC) remains committed to finding alternatives to incarceration for those justice-involved individuals who would be living productive lives if not for substance abuse disorders and/or other mental health issues,” said Vanessa Finley, CSC interim chief executive officer. “We know alternative courts work, and are proud to work with community partners to get people the assistance they need to live their fullest lives for themselves and their families.”
The VTC model includes connecting veterans to mental health and social services they need, as well as benefits they’ve earned through their military service. There is also a strong mentor component that helps restore honor by reconnecting the justice-involved veterans with local volunteer veterans who stand beside them through their treatment and court appearances.
“Our mentors are living proof of our program motto, ‘Leave No Veteran Behind and Honor Their Service,’” said Tammy Westcott, director of Community Service Council’s incarceration division and program manager of the Tulsa Alternative Courts program. “These men and women who served our country continue to give of themselves by supporting their fellow veterans who have fallen on hard times.”
As an early adopter for a special veteran-only docket, Tulsa’s court served two terms as a national mentor court for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Over the course of six years, VTC hosted more than 100 jurisdictions from across the country helping prepare them to start their own veteran-focused courts. Westcott is a noted national expert on veterans-specific drug courts and is regularly requested to conduct trainings for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.