'Every little bit helps': Sedgwick County funds Veteran treatment court
7% of veterans return home with post-traumatic stress disorder according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
That PTSD can be the start of a spiral if not handled right.
Robert Goodale, the post commander of VFW 3115 in Wichita says “Every veteran is different. Everybody handles trauma differently. Some guys can handle it, some guys can't."
A report from an independent think tank, Council on Criminal Justice, in 2022 says 8% of inmates in state prisons in the US are veterans. Now Sedgwick County is taking steps to try to fix that by launching a veteran services court. The county commission approved a grant of $475,000 to get it underway.
The program will take veterans who have committed low-level felonies and give them the option to receive counseling over jail time.
Sedgwick county commissioner David Dennis says the program is modeled after the county's drug court.
"(The veteran) goes over to our corrections department and our corrections personnel then start working with this individual and find out what exactly they need in order to solve either the PTSD problem, the drug and alcohol abuse problem, whatever their issue is."
The idea of the program is that by treating the underlying issue of what led to the felony, like addiction, PTSD homelessness, or other situations, the more likely the veteran will not break the law again. The county is working with the VA to help administer services.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, whose office helps run the program, says “There are very few people who commit crimes who are in their right mind and stone sober when they do it.”
He adds that the drug court program has been fairly successful, with 50% of participants staying clean. Even at that rate, he says it makes a big difference for the county. “If they can keep them out of the criminal justice system for a year or two or three, you know, that's, let's say three years, that's $150,000 per person out of the half that made it through. That's a pretty good return on investment.”
Goodale says often times veterans are afraid to ask for help, so he thinks this program could be beneficial. “Every little bit helps. People need help."
The county is aiming to have the veteran's court up and running by July 1.