5 graduates honored at Veterans Treatment Court


 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News
In a true celebration of Veteran’s Day, five proud veterans – four Army and one Navy – graduated Monday from the Washtenaw County Veterans Treatment Court, in a ceremony held in the Ann Arbor Justice Center. 
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget Mary McCormack was the keynote speaker, and Robert McDivitt, Director of VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System,  also spoke. Judge Christopher Easthope, who started the program two years ago, oversaw the proceedings. Attorney Rick Graham, 17th District Veterans Court defense attorney attended, as did Ann Arbor defense attorney Anna Frushour; Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brenda Taylor; Tom Kent and Bob West from the City of Ann Arbor attorneys office; 15th District Court judge Judge Joe Burke; 15th District Chief Judge Elizabeth Hines; and 14A District Chief Judge Richard Conlin, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam. Attendees enjoyed a reception after the ceremony; and each veteran received a handmade quilt, donated by volunteer Kathy Schillaci and her quilting group. 
The program graduated one veteran in 2013, and has graduated 14 in 2014, including Monday’s quintet. Two women have graduated from the program. “A few graduates are veterans from the Global War on Terror, but mostly they are from periods between conflicts,” said Darius Robinson, Veterans Treatment Court Coordinator in the Michigan 15th Judicial District, Ann Arbor. “This is an absolutely rigorous program, not everyone who started with these graduates made it to graduation with them. Veterans treatment courts are often the harder option because we demand so much more. The graduates earned the right to be proud that they made it through our intensive requirements.”
There is a rolling entry into the program throughout the year, and the next graduation will be in late Spring 2015. Robinson will start planning for it next week.
The program needs veteran mentors who are willing to help guide a veteran through treatment and recovery, Robinson said. “We just need veterans who can give time to talking and drinking coffee with our veterans-participants,” he said. “We’re always looking for people to donate their time and talents, especially doctors, dentists, and lawyers, but every career field is always welcome.”
The Court, that celebrated its second anniversary last month,  is one of over 100 similar courts across the country.  It focuses on substance abuse and mental health treatment while providing veterans with a community environment that encourages law-abiding behavior. Judge Easthope and a team of volunteers and professionals coordinate mental health and substance abuse services while providing housing and family support. The court expedites access to veteran-specific resources, including benefits and treatment earned through military service, by involving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, the Veterans Benefits Administration, State Departments of Veterans Affairs, volunteer veteran mentors, Washtenaw County Department of Veterans Affairs, and veteran’s family support organizations.