Regional Veterans Court
King County celebrated the launch of Veterans Court at an opening ceremony on June 14, 2012
Veterans joined officials from the King County District Court and members of the Metropolitan King County Council on June 14, 2012, to commemorate the establishment of King County’s new Regional Veterans Court. The Regional Veterans Court follows the model established by the County’s other award-winning therapeutic courts—Regional Mental Health Court and Drug Court—which focus on treatment and rehabilitation rather than incarceration.
The Regional Veterans Court is the result of planning by multiple King County departments and other community agencies, including: the King County District Court, Metropolitan King County Council, King County Executive Office, King County Prosecutor, Office of Public Defense, Veterans Health Administration and King County Mental Health and Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services Division. The Department of Veterans Affairs for the state and federal governments also shared in the planning process.
In its initial pilot year, it is expected that up to 15 veterans will participate in King County’s Regional Veterans Court. The pilot will function within the available resources of the Regional Mental Health Court, with Judge Michael Finkle assigned as the judge for both courts. With a focus on rehabilitation, the Regional Veterans Court will connect eligible veterans to treatment and counseling services available through local providers and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.
KING COUNTY REGIONAL VETERANS COURT ISSUES REPORT ON FIRST TWO YEARS OF CLIENT SERVICES; PARTICIPATION FAR EXCEEDS INITIAL PROJECTIONS
Veterans in the justice system are connecting to health and behavioral health treatment, housing and other services and re-stabilizing their lives, thanks to the focused efforts of the King County Regional Veterans Court (RVC). Founded in June of 2012, RVC is a specialized track within the County’s highly successful Regional Mental Health Court. As of September 30, 2014, a total of 54 veterans have been served by the RVC, far more than the County and the court had projected when the program was created in 2012.
“Regional Veterans Court exemplifies the positive results to be gained when courts partner with government and social services agencies,” said Regional Mental Health Court/Regional Veterans Court Judge Johanna Bender. “It is inspiring to see our participating veterans regain their health and dignity, and to watch them re-establish positive relationships with family and in the workplace.”
The goals of the RVC are to improve access to appropriate treatment for veterans, divert veterans from further involvement in the justice system, and reduce the use of jails and emergency services by veterans. A team-based approach identifies the underlying issues that led to the veteran’s involvement in the justice system and an individualized treatment plan helps each veteran rebuild health and stability for the future.
“The best way we can honor the men and women who have served our country is to ensure they have the opportunity to succeed when they come home,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I’m proud of our combined effort to provide military veterans with the individualized treatment they need to reestablish their civilian lives.”
The original target for the RVC was 15 justice-involved veterans in the first year of operation. At the conclusion of year two, a total of 50 veterans had opted into the voluntary RVC program. As of September 2014, that number was up to 54 veterans. Participants receive behavioral health care and social services from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs, King County Veterans Program and other local providers of veterans services.
Funding support for the RVC is provided by the voter-approved King County Veterans and Human Services Levy. The RVC has completed a progress report describing the program’s structure, early successes, and goals for the future. The full report is available online at: http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/DistrictCourt.aspx.
“I am proud that the Veterans and Human Services Levy has been able to provide financial support to help make the Regional Veterans Court program such a success,” said Francisco Ivarra, Chair of the Veterans Citizen Oversight Board. “On behalf of the board, I congratulate the Veterans Court on their second anniversary and thank them for their efforts to help our local veterans.”
King County District Court is proud to serve the veterans in our community and looks forward to a continued partnership with the County Council, the Veterans and Human Services Levy Joint Citizen Oversight Board, federal and state departments of Veteran Affairs, local providers of veterans services, and our community’s veterans.
Additional questions or comments should be directed to:
Betsy Bosch, Court Manager
Regional Veterans Court Pilot Report September 19, 2014