Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the availability of an online training program for individuals interested in becoming a Veterans Treatment Court Peer Mentor. The video was created in coordination with the Veterans Courts and Military Affairs Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Illness, which was formed in 2011 by Attorney General DeWine and then-Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton.
“Peer mentors are a distinctive feature of Veterans Treatment Courts,” said DeWine. “This role was created to provide community support for veterans as they learn to readjust to civilian life and reintegrate back into their communities.”
Peer mentors are essential in assisting the veteran mentee in navigating through the Veterans Health Administration, the court system, local veterans groups, and community support organizations. Mentors function in a variety of roles to the mentee, including facilitator, friend, ally, coach, advisor, sponsor, supporter, and advocate.
The training video provides an overview of the role and responsibilities of a peer mentor. Upon completion of the training, the prospective mentor can print a certificate of completion and present the certificate to their local Veterans Treatment Court. Each court will provide additional peer mentor training.
In Ohio, the first Veterans Treatment Courts began in 2009 to address the increasing number of veteran offenders. Judges saw the need to offer treatment services through the Veterans Health Administration to specifically address the concerns of veterans. The judges also saw the comradery shared by military members and the unique opportunity it provided to engage and support veteran offenders in the community. Based on this, Veterans Peer Mentor Programs were created and incorporated into the Veterans Treatment Courts to encourage peer-to-peer interaction and assistance outside of the court setting. There are currently 20 Veterans Treatment Courts in Ohio.
The goals and objectives of Veterans Treatment Courts are to:
• Reduce the length of confinement for veteran offenders with treatment needs
• Expedite early intervention and case processing
• Create effective working relationships among the Veterans Health Administration, local treatment providers, and the criminal justice system
• Increase access to treatment services
• Improve the health and well-being of the participants
While the specific operations of Veterans Treatment Courts may vary slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the following are required components for a court to receive certification to operate as a Veterans Treatment Court by the Ohio Supreme Court:
• Participation in the Veterans Treatment Court is always voluntary, due to the fact that a defendant must agree to waive many of their due process rights
• Defendants enter the program post arrest, usually at the plea or sentencing hearing
• Most courts require a guilty plea in order for the defendant to enter the program
• Veterans Treatment Court participants are intensively supervised with an emphasis on accountability
• A team approach is used in monitoring the participant’s progress with representatives from the criminal justice system, Veterans Health Administration, and local treatment providers forming a cooperative working relationship
• The Veterans Treatment Court judge plays an integral role in the treatment and supervision of the participants
• Team meetings and judicial review hearings are held weekly or bi-monthly to track the participants’ progress and may result in the application of rewards or sanctions
The training video can be accessed online at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/VeteransMentorTraining.