Friday November 8, 2013
Wayne Martin knows what it means to struggle with addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now Martin is helping other veterans cope with their own addictions and mental health issues as he mentors clients going through the Jefferson County Veterans Treatment Court.
Veterans Treatment Court is a voluntary program, much like Drug Courts in Kentucky, where veterans with certain types of criminal charges can participate in intensive treatment for substance abuse and/or serious mental health issues. Qualified veterans who have committed felony or misdemeanor charges go into the program for 18 months of monitoring and treatment.
“I know what these guys are going through,” Martin said.
Each week after veterans in the program appear before District Court Judge David Holton, mentors take the participants aside to talk to them about any issues, problems or concerns they may have. The mentors are there to provide a “real world” ear to listen and provide support and guidance.
Martin said after 25 years of sobriety, he hopes he can offer participants hope that things can improve. As a Vietnam veteran, who served in the Army, Martin said he can understand the types of experiences the participants have had while in the military and the struggles they face now.
The court, which was established earlier this year and was the first of its kind in Kentucky, offers veterans help with both substance abuse and mental health treatment, works with them to find jobs and housing, and requires them to regularly check in with the court.
Currently, there are about a dozen participants in the court, which can accommodate about 25 to 30.
Several partners have come together to work on the program, including the local judiciary, the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Robley Rex VA Medical Center, Legal Aid, Community Corrections, Louisville Metro Police, the Commonwealth Attorney’s office and the County Attorney’s office.
One of the critical elements of the program is the mentors, said Sonny Hatfield, a veterans justice outreach specialist with the VA.
“Service members have a bond and camaraderie with one another that is hard to replicate,” Hatfield said. “They are the ones who as a battle buddy/wing man encourage and assist with a veteran being able to hold up to the rigors of treatment and the demands of the court and the expectations that veterans often times place on themselves.”
Ray Feinberg just signed up to volunteer as a mentor with the court. While he has worked with addiction recovery groups through the VA, Feinberg said this opportunity to work with court participants is very exciting because of its potential to help people turn their lives around.
A recovering alcoholic and Army veteran, Feinberg said he has relied on peer support in his own recovery so he understands the value.
“It makes the peer more comfortable talking to someone who’s been there,” Feinberg said. “It gives that feeling that it is achievable.”
For more information about Veterans Treatment Court, visit our web page.