Pandora Palmer

Henry County Superior Court Judge Pandora E. Palmer presides over the Veterans Treatment Court.

MCDONOUGH — The Henry County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) will hold its second commencement ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 3 beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Henry County Veterans Memorial Wall in McDonough, honoring the second graduating class of three successful veterans who have completed the intensive treatment program.

The Henry County VTC began July 1, 2018, joining a nationwide surge of accountability courts specifically tailored for veterans, addressing issues of substance use-disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other service-connected mental health diagnoses via individualized counseling and additional needed services to achieve success.

The Veterans Treatment Court mission is to increase public safety by reducing recidivism, alleviate the tax burden of incarcerating law-breaking veterans by assisting participants to become productive taxpayers versus inmates, to provide intensive case management and counseling to address the veterans’ diagnosis and offer the familiarity of structure and accountability similar to what they encountered during their military service.

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An estimated 774,464 veterans reside in Georgia, with over 21,000 of these “heroes” living in Henry County. Superior Court Judge Pandora E. Palmer, who presides over VTC, states, “There are almost 200,000 veterans in jail in the United States. Veterans Treatment Courts are a second chance for vets who have lost their way and are facing incarceration. It is truly an honor and one of my greatest accomplishments as a judge to be presiding over this Court and to be in a position to help those who have sacrificed greatly for our country.”

The keynote speaker for the commencement ceremony will be State of Georgia Appeals Court Judge John A. “Trea” Pipkin III, who was the presiding judge when Henry County’s Veterans Court began operating just over two years ago.

Under the leadership of Palmer and Craig Ogilvie, director of Henry County Accountability Court, Henry County VTC’s mission is executed through an inter-agency collaborative treatment strategy of Intensive Judicial Supervision (Status Hearings and Case Management); Clinical Treatment (Individual and Group Therapy); Community Supervision (Fees, Home Visits, and Community Service and Volunteerism); and Department of Veterans Affairs Interactions and Supports. When a veteran participant is stable in their recovery and treatment, the VTC team addresses other issues which hinder an enrollee’s success, such as unemployment, lack of stable housing, the need for continuing education, or having previously been denied VA benefits.

According to data collected from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), nationwide over 39 veterans attempt to commit suicide daily and of those veterans, 22 a day are successful in taking their lives. Approximately 70% of those veterans who took their own lives, did not fully access services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Through the assistance of a Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist (VJO), Henry County’s VTC ensures all veterans connect with the VA and access all the benefits and services available to them and their families. Unfortunately, those 22 daily suicides of veterans are a number that often goes under-reported, since many of these veterans were embarrassed or unwilling to report their veteran status prior to ending their lives. The ultimate goal of all Veterans Courts nationwide is to give veteran participants a greater sense of social connectedness and the belief they are never “alone” in overcoming personal challenges.

One of the most unique aspects of the VTC is the Mentor Program. Each VTC participant is paired with a volunteer veteran mentor who understands the challenges encountered by their assigned veteran to succeed in the program and progress towards graduation. VTC mentors must be honorably-discharged from military service, have no prior criminal record themselves, and be willing to commit for the duration of assisting a minimum of one justice-involved veteran for the entirety of their VTC program requirements.

The Veterans Memorial Wall is located at 101 Lake Dow Road in Heritage Park. All are welcome.

For more information on the Veterans Treatment Court, visit www.co.henry.ga.us/Departments/Courts/Accountability-Court or contact Craig Ogilvie at 770-288-6223 or cogilivie@co.henry.ga.us.

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