Editor’s note: As with Drug Court, Sauk Valley Media does not name Veterans Court participants.
DIXON – Lee County’s Veterans Treatment Court continues to grow after 2 years, and it recently celebrated its first graduate from the program.
The specialty court is aimed at helping veterans who are suffering from substance abuse or mental health issues with early intervention and treatment, rather than jail time.
One of the six program participants completed all requirements and was recognized Oct. 23 at a graduation ceremony at the Lee County Courts Building.
After struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and drug abuse, the veteran who served in Afghanistan was discharged from the program carrying 378 days of sobriety, a treatment court coin that read “Leave no veteran behind, not in the field or back at home,” a certificate, and pride and gratitude from family, friends, attorneys and court officials.
He was also wrapped up in a quilt from the Illinois Valley chapter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation.
His guilty plea was withdrawn and cases were dismissed following the completion of the program requirements.
The Veterans Treatment Court was created in November 2016 and received a $400,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance last year.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Geoff Livengood, coordinator of the county’s specialty courts and supervisor for probation and court services.
One of the most gratifying factors about the growth of the program is that they are being contacted by other counties looking for guidance to establish their own veterans courts, he said.
Probation officer Amy Linder said the court’s first graduate exceeded expectations and made incredible progress in the past 2 years.
“These are people who have given everything for us,” Linder said. “Being able to give them access to resources and helping to create a positive lifestyle, that’s huge. We want to provide the best service to veterans as we can.”
Staci Stewart, director of the county’s probation department, said the program takes a hands on, incentive based approach and the veterans come into court every week.
Requirements for participants include having to remain drug and alcohol free for at least 6 months, be successfully engaged in treatment and productive activities, pay existing fines, have no new convictions and complete any special requirements set by the court.
Call 815-284-5247 or go to leecountyil.com for more information about the Lee County Veterans Treatment Court.