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'One of the best moments you have as a prosecutor': JOCO Veterans Treatment Court looking for mentors

District Attorney Steve Howe
Posted at 1:43 PM, Jul 07, 2024

OLATHE, Kan. — Johnson County’s Veterans Treatment Court is looking for mentors for the eight-year-old program. In 2016, it became the first court of its kind in the state of Kansas.

The program serves as an alternative to incarceration for veterans dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues.

VTC offers a probation track through the district court supervised by court services and a diversion track through the district attorney's office.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said common offenses include possession of narcotics, alcohol abuse and domestic violence issues.

Now, the specialty court is searching for veteran mentors who can take participants under their wings during the 12-18 month-long program.

“If you think of how long we’ve been doing active military operations overseas; since 1991, we’ve had our troops in military operations, in war zones," Howe said. "Think of how many people have cycled in and out of the military over that long period of time.

"You’ve got a lot of people impacted who need help. You get into trouble because they’re dealing with some of those demons, the mental health and substance abuse issues.”

There is a detailed screening process for those who want to participate. Serious crimes aren't permitted.

"We feel like if we can help just a small number of people, that’s giving back to people who’ve sacrificed … not only themselves but their families have sacrificed," he said. "... This is one of the best moments you have as a prosecutor."

The program has a track record of 77% of graduates having no further contact with the criminal justice system.

VTC should have another class completing the program around the fall.

You can find more information on Johnson County's website.

KSHB 41 reporter Alyssa Jackson covers portions of Johnson County, including Overland Park, Shawnee and Mission. If you have a story idea to share, send Alyssa an email at alyssa.jackson@kshb.com