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Veterans Treatment Court set up in Otero and Lincoln counties
Alamogordo Daily News - 10/26/2020
A new specialized treatment court has come to Otero and Lincoln counties to help veterans in need.
The 12th Judicial District Court has established a Veterans Treatment Court in Otero and Lincoln counties.
The proximity of the Twelfth Judicial District to Fort Bliss, Texas and Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range makes the area an ideal location for a specialized treatment court, 12th Judicial District Court spokeswoman Katina Watson said in a news release.
The Veterans Treatment Court is designed to identify veteran-offenders suffering from addiction, mental illness or co-occurring disorders and link them to treatment and services in effort to divert these individuals from incarceration, the news release states.
“Our Veterans Treatment Court provides wrap-around services to our veteran population who struggle with substance abuse and/or mental health disorders,” Judge Steven E. Blankinship said.
Blankinship presides over Veterans Treatment Court.
“Veterans often risk life and limb to serve and protect not only our country but each of us," Blankinship said. "They have made sacrifices that many of us will never fully comprehend or adequately appreciate. It is our duty to do our very best to help those veterans who are struggling to avoid prison and get back on their feet so that, ultimately, they can live a productive and successful life.”
The Veterans Treatment Court combines treatment, judicial monitoring and coordinated services, as well as enhanced communication among the various stakeholders.
The program is designed to provide treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders, which may include combat-related disorders. This new court will provide a range of support services to address associated problems, such as, unemployment, homelessness, and access to medical care.
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Ensuring success to the Veteran Treatment Courts includes the use of peer mentors who are military veterans themselves who are volunteering to help their fellow veterans.
“The establishment of this court was no small task. It took a tremendous amount of effort and time on the part of many individuals,” Blankinship saud.
The idea for a Veterans Treatment Court came in 2018, Blankinship said.
"The Bureau of Justice Assistance with the Justice for Vets program selected us for specialized training in February of 2019," Blankinship said. "The group later established a policy and procedure manual, mentor manual, and a participant handbook which provide the framework for how the program will work.
With court personnel assistance, the court received a $200,000 federal grant that went toward the program's administrative costs including substance abuse testing kits and a Veterans Treatment Court administrator, Blankinship said.
The core group of members of the Twelfth Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court are the following:
Judge Steven E. Blankinship, Twelfth Judicial District CourtGeorgetta Corbett, Twelfth Judicial District CourtAudrey Hukari, Twelfth Judicial District CourtIan Bolinger, Twelfth Judicial District CourtNathan Deleon, Veterans Justice Outreach of the Veterans Administration Health System Armando Rhodes, LPPC, Presbyterian Medical Services Jeff “CJ” Swanson, Veteran Mentor Coordinator David Henley, New Mexico Workforce Connection Professor Brian Preppernau, New Mexico State University – Alamogordo Corporal Theo Livingston, Otero County Sheriff’s Office Johnna Arredondo, Otero County Detention Center Timothy Nuccio, Twelfth Judicial District Attorney’s Office Ashley Smith, Law Office of the Public Defender Danielle Munoz, Law Office of the Public Defender Joseph Cutts, New Mexico Corrections Department Adult Probation and Parole Office
The team has also received support from Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center, local law enforcement agencies and numerous volunteer veteran mentors.
So far, the Veterans Treatment Court has five veteran participants and hopes to increase that number in the coming year.
Although the start of the program was temporarily delayed because of COVID-19, the first court session was held Oct.1.
“We hope to drastically reduce recidivism rates in veterans, while providing services that help veterans heal from the invisible wounds of military service,”Blankinship said.
The Veterans Treatment Court also helps to find veterans services, benefits and program providers.
For more information on the program or to volunteer call the 12th Judicial District Court at 575-437-7310.
Nicole Maxwell can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 575-415-6605 or on Twitter at @nicmaxreporter.
This article originally appeared on Alamogordo Daily News: Veterans Treatment Court set up in Otero and Lincoln counties
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