The implementation of a Veterans’ Treatment Court for Catawba County is one step closer to fruition following a three-day virtual training session for those people and agencies who will be active participants in the program.
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved District Attorney Scott Reilly’s request to submit agrant application to the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to provide monetary support for the establishment of the treatment court during a meeting in April 2020.
The Veterans’ Treatment Court is scheduled to begin in January of 2021. Catawba will be the fifth county in the state to have atreatment court for veterans.
“I believe the implementation of the Veterans’ Treatment Court will prove to be beneficial to those veterans enrolled in the program, and will, therefore, benefit their families and the community as well,” said Lance Sigmon, chief assistant district attorney for Catawba County and a veteran of the United States Air Force. “This intensive program will provide hope for those struggling with mental health, addiction and adjustment issues, and will assist in redirecting their energies toward again becoming productive members of our community.”
To prepare for the treatment court, members of the team that will be operating it met virtually June 24-26, 2020, to receive training that was provided by and paid for by a grant from Justice for Vets. No local or state funding was needed for the training, which was provided by David Pelletier for the Catawba team.
“It was a great training,” Catawba County District Attorney’s Office Administrative Assistant Tammy West said. “It was very encompassing on how to start (the court) and what is needed to operate it. We have the players in place. We just needed the guidelines on how to operate.”
The Catawba County VTC team is comprised of David Aycock (judge), Kim Sigmon (clerk of court), Lance Sigmon (prosecutor), Heather Higgins (defense attorney), Tammy West (court coordinator), Jaime Arbelaez (law enforcement representative), Blake Knight (probation officer), Jack McConnell (treatment provider), Catherine Houghton (Veterans’ Affairs representative) and Cindy Travis (Veterans’ Affairs services officer).
The training was geared toward the steps necessary to set up the court from initial implementation to the specific roles of each team member involved with it. It focused on the screening and selection of appropriate veteran participants with an emphasis on equity and inclusion, and it placed an emphasis on responses to successes of participants and incentives/encouragement that could be given for those in need of further assistance.
Team members also started the process of putting together a policy and procedures manual for the VTC and a handbook for veterans who may be participants, and they learned ways to develop a funding plan for continuation of the court if grant money should not be available. They also were educated about options for participants in terms of various assessments that may be needed, treatments that can be provided and continuation of care for those who have completed the program.
Along with the intensive training received, the Catawba County team also developed the following mission statement for the VTC: “The Catawba County Veterans’ Treatment Court enhances public safety by connecting justice-involved veterans to community resources for substance use disorders, mental health conditions and social support promoting lifelong stability.”
In addition to the training offered by Justice for Vets, representatives of treatment courts for veterans in Buncombe and Harnett counties also provided guidance and direction forCatawba County as it begins to establish a VTC.
“Justice for Vets helped us do things the right way by getting the training before the court starts,” West said. “Now we know exactly what to do from start to finish. We can put everything in place before we open the court and know exactly what to do and what direction we need to take our Veterans’ Treatment Court.”
Lance Sigmon added, “With the support of everyone involved, we can send a message to those who served our country that we care about them and want to offer them an opportunity to regain their dignity.”
The Catawba County VTC team is awaiting word on the grant submitted to the Bureau of Justice Administration (BJA). If received, the grant funds would be used to fund a court coordinator, court-associated operating costs, equipment expenses, program materials and drug testing. The total potential grant funding is $500,000 over three years. The announcement of grant recipients is expected by October.
In the meantime, the Catawba County VTC team plans to meet every 30 days or so through the end of the year to continue development of the court offered to aid and benefit veterans and their families.
CONTACT: Nathan Key