The Liberty County Veterans Treatment Court is an innovative program created in 2018 to address the unique needs of veterans caught up in the justice system. District Judge Mark Morefield, who presides over the 75th State District Court, called the program a ‘wonderful opportunity’ for veterans during a Veterans Day luncheon on Saturday in Dayton.
The idea behind the creation of the Liberty County Veterans Treatment Court was to move away from conventional punitive measures to a more rehabilitative approach, where the accused are given access to psychological and sociological services by the Veterans Administration. Judge Morefield believes this method can equip veterans with tools to tackle mental disorders that may have been primarily instigated by their time in service.
Many veterans returning from combat zones suffer from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other mental health issues.
The Veterans Treatment Court offers a voluntary intervention program designed for veterans wrestling with unmanaged substance use or mental health disorders. The program typically spans over 24 months, which is adjustable depending on the needs of the veteran and their progress throughout treatment. Success in the program can result in charges being dismissed or the grant of conditional discharge through probation.
The Veterans Treatment Court was the idea of Marvin Powell, who like Morefield, is a Vietnam veteran. Powell now serves as the court liaison program coordinator. As recalled by Judge Morefield, Powell’s persistence eventually paved the way for the establishment of the special court.
“Marvin came to my office about five or six years ago and he sat down and said, ‘We need to start a veterans court here in Liberty County, and you need to be the judge.’ I said, ‘Whoa, Marvin, hold on. I’ve got more than I can say grace over to attend to the business of the 75th District Court. I don’t have time to be the judge of another court,'” Morefield said at the Veterans Day luncheon.
Powell ultimately persuaded Judge Morefield, and the two longtime friends came up with the comprehensive program and plan for the Veterans Treatment Court.
According to the Veterans Treatment Court website, here are the eligibility requirements:
- The person must be an adult;
- The person must be charged with a criminal offense;
- The person must be a veteran or service member of the United States Armed Forces or National Guard an honorable or general discharge;
- The person must be eligible for care with Veteran Health Administration
- The person must have a mental health or substance use disorder and must be identified as clinically appropriate as determined by a validated clinical assessment tool;
- The person must be approved for admission by the Veterans Treatment Court team.
- Step One: Application – Defense counsel may apply to Veterans Treatment Court by submitting an application as indicated under Application Process tab.
- Step Two: Preliminary Prosecutor Approval – The prosecuting attorney/judge will determine if the person’s pending case(s) and criminal history meet eligibility criteria.
- Step Three: Clinical Assessment – The person will complete a clinical assessment.
- Step Four: Team Review – The Veterans Treatment Court team will review the person’s information, including the clinical assessment findings, to determine program appropriateness.