Cheyenne VA Medical Center
Veterans Treatment Court holds first graduation
The 32 people who attended the graduation and transition ceremony are indicative of the support and resources for the Veterans Treatment Court (VTC). Participants included VAMC staff and leadership along with representatives from the Governor’s office to local police officers and fellow veterans.
April 29 highlighted a veteran’s completion of Cheyenne’s Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) program after approximately 14 months. The success was celebrated at the Laramie County Historic Court House.
It was a “big deal” to the participant, the Veterans Justice Outreach Program, the city of Cheyenne, the state of Wyoming and the staff and stakeholders of Cheyenne VA Medical Center.
Outreach at its best. Abigail Stark, LCSW and Cheyenne VAMC VJO Coordinator notes, “the Veterans Justice Outreach Program is outreach at its best.” It was created with the awareness that incarcerated Veterans may be at risk for homelessness, substance use and mental illness. The idea is to reach out to Veterans while their basic needs (food, shelter) are taken care of and, while they are likely to be on a regular regiment of medications. It is an opportunity to assist with enrollment and link them to VA services upon their release. This may include offering mental health services, referral to housing resources if appropriate and primary medical care.
It takes a team. “Volunteers, mentors, the weekly treatment team and the steering committee kept (paratrooper and Army veteran) Johnny Campbell, Jr. focused and on the straight and narrow,” said Circuit Judge Roberta Coates. “We help veterans help themselves.”
VTC, a component of the Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) Program, is composed of an extensive collaboration of dedicated partners, including criminal justice, federal veterans’ agencies, and local community veteran’s organizations. Eligible participants who have been charged with low-level, non-violent offenses can be diverted from the traditional criminal justice system and moved in the Veterans Treatment Court.
The goal of VTC, in partnership with the judicial system, is to help participants:
• decrease recidivism,
• gain skills in leading healthy and productive lives,
• be role models for the program and fellow veterans,
• return to being contributing members of our community, and
• be model citizens.
Along with the praise and recognition heaped on Campbell, three key speakers praised the collaborative efforts and “the hours, days, weeks and months that volunteers put in,” said Rob Sanford of the Laramie County District Attorney’s office. He added: “the wee hours of the night and all hours of the day that mentors made themselves available, is truly remarkable.”
The graduate. “I feel great. I have a strong support system around me. I want fellow comrades to enjoy the same happiness that I am enjoying,” Campbell said. A transplant from Nashville, TN, Campbell settled in Cheyenne after separating from the military in 2004 and retiring from over the road truck driving. Researching the best places to retire was on his radar and his route as he regularly drove from Nebraska to California.
Campbell got involved with the program through a referral from a friend who was also in jail. The friend told Campbell that he would probably qualify and do well in Veterans court. Campbell’s lawyer made the connections and the rest is history.
“Life is its own teacher. If you stay true to the Bible and walk the talk in your daily life, things should end well.”
“Don’t give up on yourself because people in this program aren’t having it.”
“Stay focused and stay away from the hocus pocus.”
“Campbell has a great sense of humor and has the right attitude and outlook for Veterans Treatment Court,” Lynn Thomas, Readjustment Counselor and veteran mentor from Cheyenne’s Vet Center.
If you or someone you know would like more information about the Veteran’s Justice Outreach program contact for the VTC is Anna Ornelaz at 307-630-3230 or firstname.lastname@example.org and for VJO: Abigail Stark, 307-214-7655 or email@example.com.
Interim information can be found at http://www.cheyenne.va.gov/services/Veterans_Justice_Outreach.asp.
See photos on Face Book.