Veterans get second chance at life with Vet Court

Butte- Two Butte judges are teaming up to try and implement a veterans treatment court which aims to rehabilitate instead of incarcerate military veterans in trouble with the law.

Butte has one of the largest veteran populations in the state of Montana, says Butte City Judge Jerome McCarthy.

McCarthy served in the Air Force from 1986-1990, so as a vet himself, he wants to help the men and women who served the United States.

McCarthy asked District Court Judge Bob Whelan to help him implement the treatment court in Butte. The judges both say they see a significant number of vets in their courtrooms due to drug addiction and mental health issues.

Whelan said, "The veterans court specializes in treatment and hopefully it will help them move on and get the treatment they need and get back out into society."

The new court system would help the vets get specialized care for issues they suffer from due to their service. There are currently treatment courts in Missoula, Great Falls, Billings and Bozeman.

Whelan said, "The veterans court has been proven to help those veterans cope with those different stresses they have and they will be provided with mentors through the veterans court." All mentors for the treatment court will also be vets.

McCarthy said, "It enables them to be productive, continue to work and maintain positive relationships with their family as opposed to the domestic violence and some of the other issues that are seen as a result of untreated post traumatic stress."

The duo says they're collecting information to apply for a grant through the VA to fund the program.

The court is still in its early stages and if everything goes as planned, Whelan says they hope to have it up and running by July 2020. He adds they're also forming a team and are looking for mentors for the program.

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