AUGUSTA – A new law to support and expand Kennebec County’s successful veterans treatment court program will become effective Friday, Aug. 1.
The veterans treatment court operates in Kennebec County and is open to any newly returned veteran in Maine, but may be difficult for veterans living farther away in other parts of the state to access. The new law will allow the veterans courts to slowly expand to outside Kennebec County.
“Veterans have done a lot to protect and support our country,” said Rep. Arthur “Archie” Verow, D-Brewer, a co-sponsor of the measure. “When they are in a time of need, it’s our duty to protect and support them.”
The measure will provide funding for a part-time prosecutor to ensure financial stability for the current program and will direct the Kennebec and Somerset County District Attorney, who oversees the veterans court, to report back on the performance of the veterans court and the best location for expansion.
The veterans court program takes a team approach to dealing with veterans who fall into criminal trouble or become addicted to drugs after returning home from service.
Defendants must plead guilty and follow a strict, court-ordered treatment plan. They must take multiple drug tests, undergo counseling, file reports and receive mentoring from fellow veterans.
The new law will save the state money from the savings on incarceration costs and the benefit rehabilitated veterans would provide as productive members of society. The cost of the program is about 25 percent as much as it costs to incarcerate a veteran, especially one who would otherwise face many years in prison.
Rep. Verow is serving his first term in the Legislature and represents most of Brewer. He serves on the Transportation Committee.