Platte County starts veterans treatment court program to get service members back on track

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PLATTE CITY, Mo. -- A new program in the Northland aims to keep those who've served our country out of jail.

Platte County is now the 24th judicial circuit in Missouri to offer a veterans treatment court.

A courtroom can be a scary place to end up. Now imagine facing a legal battle as a veteran still trying to heal from physical and mental wounds.

"These are people that've been in harm's way in a very significant way for them," said Bryant King, attorney, veteran and mentor coordinator for Platte County's veteran treatment court. "So they come back and don't  really know how to relate to people, the outside, to explain what they've gone through."

That's why Platte County has spent the last two years establishing a veterans treatment court.

It's a big undertaking that involves specialized training and cooperation between prosecutors, judges, probation officers and the VA. All those entities work together to screen potential veterans for the program.

"They've served our country well," Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said. "We owe it to them not just to lock them up and throw away the key, but to try to do what we can to return them so they can become the great citizens they've shown themselves capable of being."

Platte County's first veterans treatment court participant is a female Army veteran who just pleaded guilty to a DWI last week and will now begin the intense road to recovery.

It's a process designed to hold the vet accountable and get them the help they need.

"They're going to counseling sessions," Zahnd said. "They're being drug tested. They're having home visits. They're in court often multiple times every month.  All of this to try to keep not only them safe and address their problems, but keep the community safe."

What makes Platte County's program unique is each that veteran will be assigned a mentor, who is also a veteran, and a new kind of battle buddy, to help them fight through and be successful.

"They're not lawyers. They're not treatment specialists," King said. "All they do is provide the opportunity to talk their way through certain situations to get the participants back on track."

Completing treatment court keeps the veteran out of jail and gives them tools for lifelong success.

There's good reason to think this new veterans treatment court will be a success. In the decade the DWI court's been available in Platte County, only two of more than 100 participants have re-offended.

Prosecutors are hoping attorneys will encourage clients with military service to get screened for this new program.

Platte County also offers mental health/wellness and drug treatment courts. Both operate at a fraction of the cost of incarceration.

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