Funding woes hit Veterans Court

Veterans Court Graduate Nicholas Wright shakes the hand of his mentor, Garland Wallace, at a ceremony held last week.

Funding woes hit Veterans Court
July 26
01:30 2018

Veterans Treatment Court held its first, and possibly last, graduation ceremony at Goodwill Industries on Wednesday, July 18.

The voluntary 12-month court supervised program is for veterans dealing with substance use or mental health issues. The program teams veterans who’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or felony with a veteran mentor and provides participants with treatment and drug screenings to help them recover.

“For those familiar with treatment courts, this is an intensive program for the participants,” said Judge David Sipprell, who presides over the court. “It is not easy and as one of the participants told me last week, it’s hard enough that you sure don’t want to have to do this again.”

It’s funded by an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, but that funding will run out by the end of the month. Funding to keep the court going is being held up by a lawsuit over the Trump administration trying to deny Byrne grants to state or local governments that it considers to be Sanctuary Cities or States that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

Until the legal dispute is settled, all funds for the program are on hold. Byrne grants are used for law enforcement, courts, corrections, drug treatment and mental health programs nationwide.

Six veterans graduated from the program last week. There are 11 more in the program currently.


Program Coordinator Jemi Moore said there are seven more on a waiting list and several other veterans she’s assisting. She said that she’s dedicated to getting those currently enrolled through the program, even if she has to work as a volunteer, but the court will not be able to accept any others.

“That’s the disheartening part, that veterans who didn’t know about this program and need it won’t be able to benefit from it after the 31st,” said Moore.

N.C. Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs James Prosser, who personally congratulated each graduate, said that he’d see what could be done to preserve the program’s funding. Members of the Winston-Salem City Council are also looking into ways to continue the program.

Even with the program’s uncertain future, last week’s graduation was a celebration of the triumph of its participants. Their keynote speaker was Harold Austache, a local attorney and former district attorney, who shared his struggles as a veteran. He said after fighting in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, adjusting to civilian life was extremely difficult, but that he overcame Traumatic Brain Injury and a DWI to become a lawyer.

“When I got back, I thought that nothing in life would be tougher than the situations I dealt with there, but I was wrong,” said Austache.

The graduates included:

*Scott Dasher, an Army veteran who served in the Afghanistan war and came home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He developed a drinking problem, lost his employment and ran afoul of the law. He’s now been sober 17 months and didn’t receive a single citation in the program.

*Kevin Haskins, who served in the Army, and couldn’t keep a steady job and turned to alcohol to cope with his frustration. He’s not only kept his sobriety in the program, but is now a self taught IT services provider with 37 employees.

*Kenneth Williams, who’s had PTSD since serving in the Marines in the 1980s, but wasn’t diagnosed until 2015. He didn’t receive counseling for it until he became involved in Veterans Court. With his symptoms under control, he’s now thinking of returning to school to pursue his degree in human services.

*Nicholas Wright, a Navy veteran who served from 1974-1980. He had undiagnosed PTSD and depression, which led to his struggle with substance abuse. He has now maintained his sobriety for over a year.

*William Foster Jr., an Amy veteran who served in the 1970s. He began abusing drugs after he left the service. He eventually started selling drugs and stealing to support his habit. He’s maintained his sobriety for almost a year and now has a stable home life with his wife and children. He currently does car detailing and plans to open up a shoeshine parlor.

Foster credited God for his sobriety and said the program has been a much-needed blessing in his life. He said it gave him the love and support he needed to make a change.

“I hope it continues, I really do,” said Foster. “We really need it as veterans.”

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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