The Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court was established in January 2008 and diverts eligible veteran-defendants with substance dependency and/or mental illness, who are charged with felony or misdemeanor non-violent criminal offense, to a specialized criminal court docket. Veterans are identified through evidence-based screening and assessments. They voluntarily participate in a judicially supervised treatment plan that a team of court staff, veteran health care professionals, veteran peer mentors, health care professionals and mental health professionals develop with the veteran.
Unique aspects of a veterans treatment court include the following:
- court entirely of veterans;
- veterans health care worker(s) present in court;
- volunteer veteran mentors (a separate nonprofit organization);
- therapeutic environment; and
- hybrid drug & mental health court.
How Do We Help Veterans?
To be the best practice model for all future veterans treatment courts.
What We Can Do
To successfully habilitate veterans by diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them with the tools they need in order to lead a productive and law-abiding lifestyle.
Goals & Objectives
Achieve positive veteran behavior by providing a holistic and integrated set of support services including the following:
- Substance abuse services
- Mental health services
- Academic and / or vocational skills improvement services;
- Residential / housing assistance
- Outpatient and/or transition support
- Job placement and job retention services
JUDGE ROBERT RUSSELL’S GROUNDBREAKING COURT FOR BUFFALO’S VETERANS
In 2008, Judge Robert Russell, presiding judge of the Buffalo Drug and Mental Health Courts, created the Nation’s first Veterans Treatment Court in response to the growing number of veterans appearing on his dockets who were addicted to drugs or alcohol and suffering from mental illness. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not unique to Buffalo.
Immediately following the launch of the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court, Judge Russell and his team fielded requests from courts around the country experiencing the same increases in cases involving veterans. Within just two years, over 20 Veterans Treatment Courts have launched, and dozens more are planned. Judge Russell and the staff of the Buffalo court have partnered with the Bureau of Justice Assistance to provide training and assistance to judges and court staff around the country seeking to establish their own Veterans Treatment Courts.
BUFFALO VETERANS MENTOR GROUP
The Mission of the Buffalo Veteran Mentor Group is to make certain to the best of our abilities that no one is left behind.
Started in January, 2008 in Buffalo, New York, The Buffalo Veteran Mentor Group continues to be recognized as a successful, results-driven and veteran-focused program. The program model has been replicated across the country to support veteran treatment courts. The mentor group is a separate nonprofit organization and driven by volunteers in the community. For more information about the Buffalo Veteran Mentor Group and to meet some of the mentors, please watch this recent video:
We will find them, offer them assistance, assess their needs, and help them solve their problems. We will support the veteran through their readjustment to civilian life, assist the veteran with navigating through the court, treatment, and VA systems, and act as a mentor, advocate and ally.
Often, veterans are more comfortable interacting with other veterans with similar military experiences. One unique component to the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court is emerging as a vital tool for veterans treatment courts (VTC) around the country: volunteer veteran mentors.
Operating under the slogan,”leave no veteran behind,” the Buffalo volunteer mentors maintain a very unique role in the courtroom, working directly with VTC participants in a facilitator, advisor, sponsor and supporter role. Mentors meet with participants at every court session and are often in contact between sessions. The mentor program is run by a mentor coordinator and participants come from all branches of the military. Many mentors have been drawn from a number of veterans’ service organizations and governmental organizations.
The role of the veteran mentor is to act as a coach, guide, role model, advocate, and a support person for the individual veteran participant with whom he/she is working. Mentors understand the roles of other support team members and “fill the gap” to help keep the participant moving successfully toward completing the VTC program. Additionally, the mentor will be a primary resource and referral provider to the participant by helping connect him/her with benefits, assistance and support services that are community based. The mentor will be a “resource” to the veteran. Access to these support services will help reduce the participant’s stress that can be caused by distractions like housing or family needs, VA benefits, educational assistance, civil legal services, New York State Veterans Benefits and the like.