Privacy laws prevent us from identifying this Veteran by name, but all involved know who I’m talking about….
We received a call on Tuesday, January 13, 2015, from a distraught mother seeking help for her 28 year-old Marine Iraqi Veteran son. He had never “been right” after returning from being deployed to Iraq, and two weeks after his return, his 23 year-old brother and best friend, committed suicide. He had a few run-ins with “the law”, lost his driver’s license, and was now facing imminent arrest and jail for violating his parole conditions. They had no money for a lawyer, no transportation, and no hope for keeping him out of jail. The mother is on disability, their utilities are to be shut off in 8 days, and they don’t have the rent that’s due on the 22nd. But they had seen John Becker’s interview on East Tennessee Veterans Treatment Court expansion on January 8, 2105 with Sixth Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court Judge Chuck Cerny, Fifth Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court Judge Duane Slone, Eighth Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court Judge Shayne Sexton and Monroe County Veterans Treatment Court Judge Dwayne Thomas the week before, got our phone number, and called…
Wednesday morning, the Veteran was picked up at his home by one of our mentors at 8 am and taken to the General Sessions I courtroom. Our mentor appeared with the Veteran before the judge, and the Veterans Treatment Court program was explained. The judge approved for the Veteran’s warrant to be immediately transferred to Judge Cerny, coincidentally and luckily, hearing cases in General Sessions II, right next door. There was no arrest or trip to jail.
Judge Cerny reviewed the paperwork, asked a few questions of the Veteran, and released him to the mentor. His mother had gotten a ride to court, expecting to have him incarcerated. The mentor took them both to the VTC/Recovery Court offices without any delays. Knox County VTC/Recovery Court Case Manager Freda Wiggs assisted in making them comfortable and began processing an assessment on the Veteran. During the interview it was determined that neither the Veteran nor his mother had eaten for over 30 hours, and the Veteran was exhibiting withdrawal symptoms from unauthorized medications. Calls went out to any and all resources who could help, and the Veteran and his mother were taken to a nearby restaurant for lunch. The responses to calls began shortly after:
Torrie Dorschug, the new Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Justice Outreach, responded with recommendations on options…
Tom Humphries, Knox County Veteran Service Officer, obtained and provided necessary military records in less than one hour…
Nicki Weth, Knoxville OPC OEF/OIF Social Worker Case Manager spoke to the Veteran, updated records and offered her services at the clinic…
Dr. Patrick Sloan, Deputy Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health over several phone calls, arranged for a reception and treatment in the Emergency Room at the James H. Quillen Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Johnson City and ensured that a bed would be available for admission into necessary treatments and programs to help the vet into a recovery plan…and the Mentor drove the vet the 125 miles to Johnson City by 4:30 that afternoon. The Veteran was triaged, admitted, and receiving medications and fluids before 6 pm. The Veteran’s mother was called and told her son arrived safely, was resting comfortably, and wanted to enter the VTC program upon his release from the hospital. Her tears and gratitude were heartfelt.
A similar miracle in the Fifth Judicial Court on Monday with a 23 year old OEF/OIF Marine who was in the Fifth Judicial District Detention Center. His legal matter and his physical and mental condition were almost exactly like the Veteran above. Three of our VTC mentors appeared before Judge Michael A, Gallegos, the Assistant District Attorney Ryan K. Desmond and Assistant District Public Defender Shawn G. Graham. Within hours VA VJO Torrie Dorschug, Director of Veterans Affairs/Veterans Service Office Blount County Nathan Weinbaum and Knox County Veterans Treatment Court Director Ron Hanaver coordinated the Marines’ treatment plan. On Wednesday he was transferred to the Knox County VTC @ 1538.
On behalf of the East Tennessee VTC Committee and mentors, we want to express our sincerest thanks to all who helped make this “10 hour mission” such a success. This exhibition of caring, individual and group participation, and teamwork had a definite and positive impact on a Veteran and his family. We can all be proud of what was accomplished! As the VTC’s become more established and coordinated we will realize this was the first of many such successes.
“A 10 hour miracle”. God Bless.
Knoxville Regional Veterans Mental Health Council
East Tennessee Veterans Treatment Court Council
Vet to Vet Tennessee