Cobb County Veterans Treatment Court celebrates two graduates
Judge Robert Leonard led a celebration Friday where the Cobb County Veterans Accountability and Treatment Court (VATC) graduated two veteran participants during a ceremony at the Cobb County Superior Court Building with over 100 in attendance. This was the 19th graduating class of successful veterans, bringing 60 local participants who had completed the 18-month intensive treatment program. The Cobb County VATC began June 13, 2014, joining a nationwide surge of accountability courts specifically tailored for veterans, addressing issues of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and other mental health issues via counseling, job training, and additional needed services to achieve success.
The Veterans Accountability and Treatment Court's mission is to increase public safety by reducing recidivism, alleviate the tax burden of incarcerating law-breaking veterans by assisting participants to become productive taxpayers versus inmates, provide intensive case management to address mental health issues and offer familiarity of structure and accountability, like what they encountered during military service.
An estimated 774,464 veterans reside in Georgia, with 47,000 living in Cobb County. Locally, 4,500 active duty/reservists are assigned to Dobbins Air Reserve Base. According to data collected from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), nationwide, over 39 veterans attempt to commit suicide daily, and 20 a day take their lives. Approximately 70% of veterans who took their own lives did not access services provided by the VA, which could have possibly prevented a majority of these suicides. The tragic daily deaths of 20 veterans is potentially a number that is under-reported since many of these veterans were embarrassed or unwilling to report their veteran status before ending their lives.
Together with the Atlanta VA, Cobb County VATC participants receive alcohol and drug treatment in Decatur and are given additional treatment locally via a private counselor. When a participant is stable in their recovery and treatment, the assigned VTC team addresses other issues that hinder an enrollee’s success, such as unemployment, lack of stable housing, the need for continuing education, or the benefits of family counseling.
One of the most unique aspects of the VATC is the Mentor Program. Each VATC participant is paired with a veteran who understands the challenges encountered by their assigned veteran to succeed in the program and graduate. VATC mentors must be honorably discharged from military service, have no prior criminal record, and are willing to commit to the duration of assisting a minimum of one veteran for the entirety of their 18-month VTC program.
Two veteran participants graduated from the VATC on August 25th. With their mentors by their sides, these veterans turned what once seemed like a dismal path into a very bright future for themselves and their families.