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King County Opens Veterans Treatment Court

Patricia Murphy

King County has established a new court program to help address the needs of veterans. Veterans courts emphasize drug treatment and rehabilitation as an alternative to jail.


King County's Veterans Treatment Court and others like it work closely with the State Department of Veterans Affairs. To qualify, veterans must have a mental health or substance abuse problem.

Participants in the two-year program can't use drugs or alcohol. In exchange they can stay out of jail and get help with housing, treatment and other health care needs.

Judge Steve Rosen presides over Seattle's Veterans Treatment Court. It was established last year. He says it's a rigorous program; new defendants are required to check in with him weekly.

Rosen: "So they have a tremendous amount of resources thrown at them at the very beginning, and as long as they do well, their requirements start to lessen over time." Not everyone makes it. Violating the terms of the program can result in jail time. But Rosen says for many vets in the program, the camaraderie and structured support make a huge difference.

Rosen: "So they sit in court and they talk to each other and they help each other out. And it's gotten to the point where there's one gentleman who comes anytime that there's any veteran in court because he wants to help through the process and show that somebody can be successful, which is so rewarding -- I cannot tell you."

Seattle's Veterans Court is too new to have had any graduates. But Rosen and others believe the combination of court oversight and access to health care and social services can help meet the needs of the of the veteran and the city.

I'm Patricia Murphy, KUOW News.

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