This month, VA Pittsburgh celebrated the one-year anniversary of a court program designed to keep Veterans out of jail — and treat the underlying issues that often lead to their legal troubles.
A partnership between VAPHS and Allegheny County courts, the Veterans Justice Outreach Program provides a specialized court process for Veterans, combining intensive case management with an emphasis on recovery and rehabilitation.
"The main objective of the program is to provide support to Veterans facing legal trouble because of untreated issues," said Beverly Vanderhorst, VAPHS's Veterans Justice Outreach specialist.
Those issues can involve physical, social and behavioral health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions and chronic homelessness.
"The Veterans who succeed realize what this program can mean for them…an opportunity to turn their lives around," Vanderhorst said.
That is what court participant Anthony "Tony" Coppola has been doing since entering the program in April.
"It's the best thing that I've ever done," Coppola said. "If it weren't for this program, I'd probably go back and do the same thing all over again. I am lucky to be a Vet."
The program is growing quickly: More than 30 Veterans are enrolled. This month, two individuals celebrated their graduation from the court.
And while Allegheny County has the only official Veterans Court in western Pennsylvania, many neighboring counties are considering starting their own.
"That is good news for Veterans," Vanderhorst said.