National News

Buncombe County Veteran's Treatment Court hopes to expand

Posted July 7

— A documentary produced by a high school student heads to the nation's capital this weekend. Rising Asheville High senior Evan Davison helped the Buncombe County Veteran's Treatment Court produce a film on all that it has accomplished since its inception in 2015 and will be playing it at a conference.

"I can't comprehend how far out this is going to go, but it's big and I'm excited to be a part of something that's bigger than just me and our local Asheville community," said Davison.

The court has helped veterans who land in the system because of opioid or alcohol abuse by pairing them with mentors, counselors and employers. It is currently assisting 19 veterans. One has already graduated.

"A majority of our clients suffer from opioid addiction and some have military sexual trauma we have to work with them on. Alcohol is another big one," said Dr. Eric Howard. "We really work with them on a regimented treatment plan."

Veterans who complete the program have the opportunity for non-violent crimes to be expunged from their records.

Resident Superior Court Judge Marvin Pope Jr. said he was inspired after seeing the conditions of veterans returning from places like Iraq.

"Our veterans are so severely injured when they return from these wars. They're treated with these medications, and they are just left to fend for themselves to deal with society," said Pope. "When they go back in, they find themselves abusing drugs and self-medicating."

He said the likelihood of convicted criminals who committed a felony to return to jail is 60 percent. That number goes down to 30 percent for convicts in drug treatment court. It decreases even more for veterans in treatment court, at just 3 percent.

"It uses military training and applies that to help him resolve the problems and treat what has caused this problem," said Pope.

Organizers hope to become a model for the country and get more grant money from lawmakers at the conference this weekend.

"We have a lot of support, but it takes a lot of work to build those networks and make sure we work within the community," said Howard. "Nothing happens without community partnership."

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