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Tulsa's Veterans Court Program Being Used As Nationwide Model

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Every Monday for the past 18 months, veterans have appeared before Judge Sarah Smith. Each is there because he's in trouble with the law. Every Monday for the past 18 months, veterans have appeared before Judge Sarah Smith. Each is there because he's in trouble with the law.
"Too many of our veterans are falling into substance abuse problems and winding up in the criminal justice system, so instead of sending them to jail and prison, let's give them the help that they need," said Matt Stiner, Veterans Court. "Too many of our veterans are falling into substance abuse problems and winding up in the criminal justice system, so instead of sending them to jail and prison, let's give them the help that they need," said Matt Stiner, Veterans Court.
"It's something I can adapt to because of the camaraderie with other veterans. Whereas in comparison with the community sentence I saw no way out," said Altore Stokes, Jr., a Vietnam vet. "It's something I can adapt to because of the camaraderie with other veterans. Whereas in comparison with the community sentence I saw no way out," said Altore Stokes, Jr., a Vietnam vet.

By Chris Wright, The News On 6  

TULSA, OK -- A program designed to help veterans avoid jail time, that got its start in Tulsa, is now being used as a model nationwide.

Started in 2008, Veterans Court provides guidance for veterans with legal and substance abuse problems.

3/14/2010  Related Story: Tulsa County Veterans Court Reps Aid In Expanding Program

Every Monday for the past 18 months, veterans have appeared before Judge Sarah Smith. Each is there because he's in trouble with the law. But instead of jail time, the vets are given the option of joining the Veterans Court Program.

"It's an opportunity to address their addiction, develop the camaraderie to address the issues that may have plagued them for years," said Tom Boone, Ace Addiction Recovery Center.

"Too many of our veterans are falling into substance abuse problems and winding up in the criminal justice system, so instead of sending them to jail and prison, let's give them the help that they need," said Matt Stiner, Veterans Court.

Former Marine Matt Stiner helped found the program, the first of its kind, in 2008. He says returning vets often struggle with mental and substance abuse problems. Veterans Court steers them into recovery programs. Vietnam vet Altore Stokes says it helped him kick a decade's long alcohol and cocaine problem.

"It's something I can adapt to because of the camaraderie with other veterans. Whereas in comparison with the community sentence I saw no way out," said Altore Stokes, Jr.

Communities across the country are taking notice. There are more than 40 Veterans Courts nationwide. 

Now, other cities who want to start programs will study Tulsa's. Congressman John Sullivan, who has battled substance abuse problems himself, announced that Tulsa's has been selected as one of four mentor courts. 

So those wishing to aid struggling vets will turn to Green Country for guidance.

"The nation, during a time of war, is looking at us to learn how to do these things because we are so successful so far," said Stiner.

Those involved with Veterans Court say once vets decide to participate, they stick with it. Only two have dropped out since the program started.

 

 

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