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Sedgwick County preparing to begin Veterans Treatment Court next year

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The court would provide supervised treatment instead of incarceration for some veterans.

Sedgwick County District Court will launch a new program for veterans to help them avoid incarceration and instead receive resources they may need.

The court is in the process of creating a Veterans Treatment Court. The court connects veterans who find themselves in the criminal justice system to resources they need to address mental health and other issues. The idea is to provide supervised treatment instead of jail or prison time.

As of Oct. 1, there were 50 veterans in the Sedgwick County Jail.

“The need is there,” Sedgwick County Judge Rodger Woods said. “In my experience, again with the drug treatment court, to see the way that can really change lives and not just in a way that keeps participants out of the trouble. I mean really changes lives of not just the participants, but the family members and children and the entire community.

“And I think the same is true for the Veterans Treatment Court.”

Woods also oversees the county’s drug court, an 18-month probation program for drug and alcohol treatment.

The conversation is still ongoing about details and who will qualify for the Veterans Treatment Court, but the funding and resources are there, according to Woods.

“With these resources available and the community’s involvement and really desire to have a Veterans Treatment Court, I think we really owe it to both the community and the veterans to get it done,” Woods said.

Johnson and Wyandotte County in northeast Kansas recently started their own Veterans Treatment Courts. It’s also part of a growing national movement to set up more veterans courts.

“A growing number of veterans suffer from substance use disorders, mental health conditions (such as PTSD), and trauma (such as traumatic brain injury),” a page from Justice for Vets reads.

“These issues can be exacerbated by the loss of structure and camaraderie found in the military, and research continues to link substance use disorders with service-related mental illness. Such conditions increase the likelihood of involvement with the justice system.”

The group says Veterans Treatment Courts offer a solution to those problems.

Sedgwick County expects its program to begin some time next year.

“So it'll start out small and hopefully, quickly and successfully, expand and ramp up,” Woods said.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.