5 veterans graduate from Douglas County Treatment Court

People graduate from Douglas County treatment court
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 7:50 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A problem-solving court reaches a milestone. It comes with the help of an army of mentors.

They are veterans facing serious felonies.

The battle scars have often led to substance abuse and mental health problems.

For the last 18 to 24 months, each of the five graduates has taken a path to recovery - held accountable by the Douglas County Veterans Treatment Court.

“In my case, it’s life-altering in the best way possible,” said Cody Arnett.”

Arnett is an army combat veteran who spent two years in Iraq.

This court helped him get sober while providing the tools to make good choices.

“I’ve been through a few different treatment programs.”

Arnett says this one works.

“Part of it is the weight on you. In order to get into the program, you have to plead guilty to whatever charges are against you. If you fail the program, you’re going to get punished according to those charges against you. It’s definitely a sink or swim moment.”

A fellow veteran told the graduates he was proud of them.

“Make a positive difference in your life. We need you,” said Rep. Don Bacon.

Rarely do judges give a defendant a hug, but that happens in this court.

The graduates also get their charges dismissed or reduced as part of the deal.

“If one of our participants falls, we are there to pick them up,” said Judge Horacio Wheelock. “We are a court of second, third and fourth chances.”

Douglas County started the Veterans Treatment Court in 2016. Right now it has veteran number 101 going through the program.

“This is the kind of thing that this court and the people behind it demonstrate that it is not shallow,” said Douglas County public defender Tom Riley. “That when we say thank you for your service, we’re actually doing something to give you a helping hand to really say thank you.”

Problem-solving courts keep growing.

Consider this as a taxpayer: Studies estimate this court costs around $3,000 per person. Compared to the alternative - a year in jail costs nearly $40,000 dollars.

Cody Arnett is still giving back.

“Actually I’m a mentor now.”

Helping the next round of veterans get the help they desperately need.

When Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine helped start a veterans treatment court here six years ago, there were 400 of them in the U.S. Today that number has grown to 600.