ASHEBORO - Sheriff Greg Seabolt has been advocating for a Veterans Treatment Court in Randolph County since he took office in 2018.
Randolph County is home to over 8,000 veterans, nearly 6% of the county’s population. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that one in ten veterans in the US has been diagnosed with a substance use disorder often occurring as a result of time serving our country. Impacted by critical issues like substance use, pain, suicide risk, trauma, and homelessness, our veterans face serious hardships that, without intervention, can lead to chronic health conditions, incarceration, suicide, and death. In an effort to address some of these concerns and following in the footsteps of retired Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman, Sheriff Seabolt sought out funding to establish a local Veterans Treatment Court.
Randolph County Sheriff’s Office requested and was approved for $851,663.00 in Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) funds under Category 1 (Planning and Implementation) of BJA’s FY 2023 Veterans Treatment Court Discretionary Grant Program to implement a District 19B Veterans’ Treatment Court. The District Attorney’s Office collaborated with District Court Judges, the Randolph County Clerk of Court, the NC Division Community Corrections, Veterans’ Services, local defense attorneys, and mental and behavioral health providers to establish processes and procedures for the Veterans Treatment Court.
Grant funds will cover the planning and implementation phase for the program for 36-months beginning December 1.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance anticipates requests for continuation and enhancement funding from successful applicants following the initial 36-month grant-funded phase.
On November 6, 2023, the Randolph County Board of Commissioners approved a budget amendment accepting the $851,663 in grant funding awarded to Randolph County in October to start a Veterans Treatment Court (VTC), approved a new temporary grant-funded position for a Veterans Treatment Court Coordinator and approved a budget amendment covering the remaining seven months of FY23-24.
Randolph County was one of four applicants selected across the nation as recipients. Randolph County is the ninth county in North Carolina to establish a VTC, which is a post-plea court. Although the program differs from the traditional criminal justice system, it does include most features of a conventional court. Participants will attend court sessions before a judge where defense attorneys and prosecutors are also present.
The Randolph County VTC is a voluntary, court-supervised, intensive treatment court for U.S. Military Veterans charged with felony or misdemeanor nonviolent criminal offenses who have substance use dependence and/or mental health illnesses. The District Attorney’s Office will assess potential participants to place on a specialized criminal court docket. The court substitutes a problem-solving model focused on treatment. VTC is not only for veterans but also for active-duty military members. Sixty-seven veterans have entered the Randolph County Detention Center since January 2023.
“We owe so much to the men and women who selflessly have served or are serving in our country's military, we have a duty to return that service to them.” Sheriff Seabolt stated.
It will be a coordinated effort of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center, Judges, District Attorney’s Office, Clerk of Court, NC Probation and Parole, the VTC Coordinator, VTC Mentor volunteers, and area agencies that will provide services, such as mental health and substance abuse services.
The Honorable Robert M. Wilkins, District Court Judge and The Honorable Andrew Gregson, District Attorney, who are veterans themselves, will preside over the first sessions of the Veterans’ Treatment Court. They have both emphatically supported the journey to bring this program to fruition in Randolph County.
The VTC will help non-violent offenders get access to several resources including therapy and substance abuse treatments. The treatment court will provide a mentor to help them through the process. It also provides a case manager to make sure they get connected with the appropriate services. The VTC Coordinator and Volunteer Veteran Mentors will assist individuals with navigating through the different phases of the program totaling a minimum of 16 months and up to 24 months. The length of the program can be extended, if necessary. The program’s goal is to prevent recidivism and promote accountability and recovery by diverting participants through a multi-phase recovery/treatment program. Completion of the free program awards participants a dismissal of their charges (one year after graduation), pending continued recovery and probationary compliance.
The VTC post-plea court has components that must be met for participation. Here are just a few:
- Up to 18 months of probationary supervision
- Commitment to treatment
- Resident of Randolph County
- One-day of active duty (non-training) service
- Abstinence from substances
- Drug screenings
- Compliance with all VTC policies/protocols.
Results reported from other counties prove that the person who starts the program is not the same person who finishes the program.