By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
With Veterans’ Day approaching, Deschutes County has launched the “Veterans Intervention Strategy.”
Its purpose is to provide moral and legal support for veterans who are involved in the justice system.
Deschutes County has tried for a decade to establish a dedicated veterans treatment court with judges who understand mental health issues unique to veterans such as post-traumatic stress disorder, but, due to the community’s rapid growth and a continued judicial staffing shortage, resources have never been available.
Monday’s launch of the Veterans Intervention Strategy is a hybrid solution involving six public and private agencies that will connect veterans to care providers.
“It’s about helping these vets succeed. We are confident that with individualized assessment, with mentor ship from vets, with the backbone of the Central Oregon Vets Center, these vets are going to thrive,” said John Hummel, Deschutes County District Attorney
Hummel says the traditional justice system does not effectively address veterans’ mental health illnesses and substance use disorders and results in the same individuals being seen repeatedly in court and serving jail time.
Veterans who participate in the new intervention strategy will be connected with mentors who are, themselves, veterans who understand what the individuals are going through and can support them as they address personal and legal challenges.
“We are just like them. I have a PTSD rating myself,” mentor Doyle Smith said. “I think our dialogue with these vets will allow the emotional gatekeeper in their brains to open the gate and allow us access because of our common backgrounds.”
Participants who qualify for the Veterans Intervention Strategy must reside in Crook, Deschutes or Jefferson counties, be charged with low-level felonies or misdemeanors, accept guilt, and agree to program requirements.
If they fail to fulfill intervention strategy requirements, their cases will be returned to the traditional criminal justice system.
“What I hope to gain out of this is to have veterans be able to negotiate the justice system and be valuable parts of our community,” said Craig Jorgensen, Veterans Intervention mentor.
Veterans who successfully complete a personalized intervention strategy may have their jail sentences reduced or dismissed.
The program is available to about 20 veterans each year.
Contact the Central Oregon Veterans Center for additional information.