Innovative Judge Baillargeon Highlights New Veterans' Treatment Court
The newest specialty court to the 57th District Court of Allegan County aims to tackle military venterans’ “invisible injuries,” helping participants address underlying issues that bring them into contact with the criminal justice system.
In his annual State of the Court report before the Douglas City Council on Monday night, Chief District Court Judge William Baillargeon said that through the West Michigan Regional Veterans’ Treatment Court he wanted to fully prepare courts to adequately deal with such common issues as post-traumatic stress, post-traumatic brain injury, and issues related to substance abuse those problems directly correlated to military service.
“These are ‘invisible injuries’ that cannot be seen physically,” said Baillargeon. “We want to treat core issues that create (mental, physical and legal) problems.”
Providing statistics, he said veterans are more likely than the general population to commit suicide, be unemployed and be homeless.
Developed and organized by Baillargeon, the veterans’ treatment court was in its planning stages in 2013 and took effect in January 2014.
“The program makes sure veterans are provided proper mental and physical health care and the court follows up to ensure that they maintain the treatment protocol as well as total abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol. “The goal is to divert veterans from prison or jail and to have more satisfying, productive, law-abiding life-restoring honor and integrity,” reads the district court’s annual report.
The five-phase, 18-month veterans’ program involves random drug/alcohol tests; bi-weekly court review, counseling and more.
The veteran’s court, said Baillargeon, represents the first regional court in the state of Michigan that fully integrates the circuit and district court cases of two different jurisdictions: Van Buren and Allegan Counties.
The district’s two other specialty courts, created three years ago, includes the Mental Health Court and the Drug Treatment Court, which Baillargeon said were operating with success.