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Johnson County program is first in Kansas to offer veterans treatment instead of jail

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Veterans Treatment Court is now an option for those who qualify in Johnson County. The program is the first in Kansas courts to rehabilitate veterans before they get into the corrections system.

There are several Veterans Treatment Courts in the state of Missouri, but Wednesday was the first time a veteran was offered treatment instead of jail under this new court system in Kansas.

Featured speaker, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, began by telling the crowd gathered in Division 14 about his uncle, who was an air rifleman in World War 2, and drank to cope and forget.  He is someone who may have been in the position many vets are today; in court as a result of disorders related to their service.

“You know ma`am, I served 28 years in the Air Force, saw a lot of different things in my time in the service,” said Andrew Jones.

Jones is a mentor in the Veterans Treatment Court. Instead of going down the path to jail, each veteran enters into a diversion program, working with someone like Jones, entering into a treatment program and is accountable to the Johnson County Department of Probation.

“When they say, ‘freedom isn`t free,’ sometimes it is just a catchphrase. But for people on the ground who have seen and done things that maybe they didn’t want to do, when they’re back here struggling, to me as a veteran, as a citizen of the United States, I owe it to them to try to help,” said Jones.

When the court was first discussed in March of 2014, Judge Ryan said he called over to the jail to find out how many veterans were incarcerated that day, and there were over 60. That was something on his mind that showed this type of program was necessary.