OLYMPIA - Thurston County District Court announces the first graduation for Veterans Court, to be held July 20 at 4:00 pm. The ceremony is for Floyd Purdy, a veteran who entered the specialty court program at the inaugural hearing on Wednesday, July 22, 2009. That day, he signed a contract and two other veterans transferred from Mental Health Court. A second Veterans Court graduation will be held on July 27 at 4:00pm. Currently, there are 17 program participants and a waiting list with seven more veterans on it. -30-</center
The creation of the Veterans Court was a response of Thurston County District Court, the Prosecutor's Office, and the Office of Assigned Counsel to the growing number of veterans and service-members who are becoming involved in the criminal justice system. Statistics show that a significant portion of these veterans and service-members suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brain injury and other impacts of their military service. The court was created using existing funding and is the first Veterans Court in Washington State, the 12th established nationally.
Veterans Court Judge Brett Buckley says the graduation is a significant milestone for the program and especially for Mr. Purdy. "Floyd's graduation from Veterans Court is a celebration of the two years worth of effort he has made to make positive changes in his life. It is also a celebration of the willingness of our community to support those we have asked to defend us." Floyd received an honorable discharge from the Army, after earning several medals, ribbons and badges throughout his service. Travis Sayers, the veterans benefits coordinator with the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs who has worked with Purdy throughout the past two years, feels it's important that people know this program is not a "get out of jail free" card, but a service for their service. "Floyd is a perfect example of why these courts are needed. He came home from combat, did not readjust well or acknowledge his 'unseen' wounds and was on a collision course to become another casualty of war on U. S. soil. During the past two years he has set the standard for future participants of this program to be successful." Floyd credits much of his success to accepting help available within the community from organizations like Catholic Community Services.
Qualifying defendants, whose mental illness must be connected to the commission of the crime charged, appear regularly in court to discuss their treatment programs, work, education and other issues important to their successful rehabilitation. Defendants also meet with program staff outside of court for monitoring and referrals. The Washington Department of Veterans Affairs and the federal Veterans Affairs have partnered with District Court to provide a Benefits Coordinator and an Outreach Coordinator on-site during each hearing.
In order to graduate, the veteran must complete all recommended mental health, chemical dependency and/or domestic violence treatment. This may also include anger management or parenting classes. Random urine analysis testing is a requirement for everyone in the program and they must remain clean and sober. This is in addition to regular check-ins with court social workers and weekly court hearings.
The regular Veterans Court sessions are held every Wednesday at 4:00 pm in Thurston County District Court and are open to the public.