Special court for struggling veterans could soon expand in St. Charles County

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by Ray Preston / News 4 and Dan Greenwald / KMOV.com

KMOV.com

Posted on May 23, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Updated Friday, May 23 at 5:45 PM

(KMOV.com) – A judge wants to expand a special court for veterans in St. Charles County.

Judge Philip Ohms said he wants to expand the Veteran’s Treatment Court, which used for veterans who are charged with crimes connected to substance abuse and mental illness. One court official said it helps veterans that try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol after they comeback from combat.

“It's so difficult to ask for help, you have to understand you're dealing with warriors, we learned independence, we learned survival," said court official Bob Murphy.

Murphy, a Vietnam veteran, helps coordinate mentors who take part in the program where older veterans help younger veterans get back on track.

 “Gives them the message that they're not the only ones that have gone through these things and they don't have to live their life the way they're doing it," Murphy said.

Ohms said the court works differently from a regular court because of the mentor system and because it uses treatment services provided by the VA.

“That's the key component and that's the thing you don't get in regular treatment court," Ohms said.

Attorneys and judges said the court has more structure than a traditional court.

“Veterans seem to respond better to that it seems to be more in the tradition of their military service," Ohms said.

Supporters have said the court has been successful both the city of St. Louis and other parts of the country because of the way older veterans mentor younger veterans.

A veteran going through the program must perform community service, have a full time job, or go to school all under court supervision. Murphy said the program also saves money because the court costs $7,800 annually while it costs $22,000 annually to send someone to prison.

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