Second Chances: Program helping veterans get back on track
WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - A program in Warren County is aiming at helping veterans facing felony charges turn their lives around.
It looks like an ordinary courtroom, but there is one major difference in these problem-solving courts.
The court is where veterans go when they find themselves in trouble with the law - and need a second chance.
“Family issues, job issues, substance abuse issues or mental health, PTSD, whatever issue that veteran is having; We just try to talk them through it,” explained Judge Timothy Tepe.
Judge Tepe oversees Warren County’s Veteran Intervention Program.
The program started in 2018 and lasts about two years.
The goal is to help rehabilitate veterans facing felony charges instead of sentencing them to prison.
“I hear stories. They tell me what they’ve gone through, what they’ve seen and sometimes it’s heartbreaking,” said Tepe.
The care team is made up of more than 20 members ranging from probation officers to VA representatives to mental health specialists and defense attorneys.
Organizers say the program addresses the unique issues that often plague veterans when they return from war.
“I did receive some pushback because they didn’t feel anyone should be getting special treatment, but In my opinion, they’re not getting special treatment,” explained Judge Tepe. “If you’ve ever sat with these veterans and heard what they had to endure, it’s not an easy task.”
Robert Hack served in the Marine Corps. from 1972 to 1975.
He says after leaving the service, he struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for several decades.
Hack became homeless in 2020 and was charged with forgery a year later.
With the help of Warren County’s Veteran Intervention Program and the Joseph House, he says he was able to turn his life around.
“The combination of the two, it was the best thing to ever happen to me,” said Hack. “This disease is all about your thinking for alcohol and drugs and it just helped me in a lot of ways.”
Hack graduated from the program in May.
The program typically takes around two years to complete and requires veterans to meet with multiple counselors and complete tasks each week.
Veterans in the program are allowed a chance to choose a community project as part of their rehabilitation like Mustang Journey.
At Mustang Journey in Clermont County, veterans or first responders are paired with wild mustangs in need of a home.
The ranch is located just 40 minutes from downtown Cincinnati and Troy Day oversees the ranch’s veteran program.
He says through his interaction with the veterans, he’s seen the impact it can have on their lives.
“I’ve seen veterans come over here and look forward to coming over here,” said Day. These muscle-bound veterans, when they get on the horse they melt. It’s just a different atmosphere.”
So far, Warren County’s Veteran Intervention Program has helped 30 veterans.
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