Howard County’s new veterans court has accepted its first participants and will soon begin admitting veterans from three other counties into the program.
Superior Court II Judge Brant Parry, who oversees the program, said two veterans have been accepted into the court since it officially launched three weeks ago offering offenders who served in the military the chance to get treatment or enter a diversion program rather than go to jail. If offenders complete the program, their criminal charges will be dismissed.
Parry said the first person admitted to the program is a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He said that led the veteran to alcohol and substance abuse when he returned home, which eventually led to his arrest.
The veteran is currently being treated at the Veterans Affairs inpatient clinic in Marion, where he will likely receive treatment for eight months before returning to Howard County to complete the veterans court program, Parry said.
“He’s getting the treatment he needs first, and then coming back to work through the program with us,” Parry said Tuesday during a meeting of the Howard County Military Foundation. “It’s been difficult, obviously, during his first few days of inpatient care, but he’s doing well.”
The second veteran accepted to the court served in Korea, where he sustained a severe leg injury which led to depression and alcohol abuse when he returned home, Parry said. A third veteran is also set to be admitted next week after getting treatment through a veteran’s program in Indianapolis.
Parry said all the veterans have been assigned mentors to help them through the court. He said those mentors include a retired drill sergeant and a former Marine.
“These mentors are ready to go and excited about it,” he said.
Over the next two weeks, Parry will also visit judges, prosecutors, public defenders and the sheriff’s departments in Miami, Cass and Fulton counties to set up policies on how to transfer criminal cases from those counties to Howard County’s veterans court.
Howard County is part of Indiana Judicial District 8, which includes those three counties – none of which have a veterans court. Parry has agreed to host the court for all four counties in the district.
He said the court is also working to receive nonprofit status so it can begin accepting monetary donations, gift cards and other items that will go to the veterans as they work through the program.
The Kokomo YMCA has already donated free memberships to veterans who complete the first phase of the program, Parry said.
As the program moves forward, Parry invited the public to attend court session to cheer on the participants as they receive treatment and work towards having their criminal charges dropped. The program is held at around 2 p.m. Mondays in Howard Superior Court II.
“It’s exciting to see all this happening,” Parry said. “It’s new, so we’re learning as we go, but we’re definitely making progress.”