Wis. veterans no longer allowed in court program

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — The Rock County district attorney has stopped allowing Wisconsin veterans to enroll in a court treatment program designed for them, saying it's costly and doesn't meet national standards.

The Veterans Treatment Court was set up in 2009 to help service members charged with drug and alcohol violations, along with other crimes. Participants get treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs for drug and alcohol addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and other problems. They also must attend weekly court sessions, submit to drug and alcohol tests and meet with veterans who serve as mentors.

Those who successfully finish the program can see their charges reduced or dismissed. Thirty veterans have participated in the program, including 11 who are still enrolled.

No more veterans will be allowed to participate, however. Rock County District Attorney David O'Leary has told his staff to stop accepting new referrals into the program.

He told the Janesville Gazette that one problem is that drug and alcohol tests aren't being done once or twice a week, as they should be. Also, veterans aren't monitored when they submit urine samples for testing by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A January report written by a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor found the Rock County program met only two of 10 benchmarks for drug treatment courts.

"A treatment court that doesn't monitor treatment is not worth putting resources in," O'Leary said. "When I found that out . I said, 'Look, until we get some of these issues straightened out, I'm not referring more people into the program.'"

The district attorney said another concern is the amount of staff time and resources eaten up by the program. Only 11 of the participants have been from Rock County, but his staff manages all the cases.

"I'm doing a nice favor for the four neighboring counties because I'm trying to help veterans, which is great," O'Leary said, "but there is a breaking point."

Jeremiah McCarty, an Iraq War veteran charged with third-offense drunken driving, said he has tried to get into the program but been denied. He is due in court for a plea hearing on May 23.

"They need to address those issues so the veterans can get the treatment they need in the program that was set up specifically for them," McCarty said. "They don't need to be throwing out their local veterans . . . just because they have a problem with their program."

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Information from: The Janesville Gazette, http://www.gazetteextra.com

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