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Community Veterans Court serves those who have served us

Attorney Nathan Pederson picks up a brochure from Loretta Sanchez at the Community Veterans Court table during Metro Courts specialty courts event in May 2016. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Camaraderie is at the core of Metro Court’s Community Veterans Court (CVC). Whether it’s our participants encouraging one another to get the help they may need, or a volunteer mentor answering a late-night call to lend an ear to a fellow veteran struggling with PTSD, those in the program continue to serve. So much that we are inviting all veterans and active service members to take advantage of a unique opportunity to learn about the many resources available to them in our community.

Veterans Resource Day is a one-stop shop where dozens of agencies will be under one roof to connect veterans with everything – from housing to treatment. This year, a record 36 agencies have reserved spots for the event, which will take place from 1-4 p.m. Thursday at Forward Flag Foundation, located at 2100 Aztec Road NE, Suite A. Some of the participating agencies include the Veteran Integration Center (VIC), the Albuquerque Center for Hope & Recovery and First Nations Community Healthsource, to name a few. A light lunch will be provided to veterans and their families.

Serving those who serve our country and who are in need of assistance is something that I believe is dear to our community. The Metropolitan Court is honored to provide that needed assistance.

That’s one of many reasons why I jumped at the opportunity to preside over a program that helps veterans who enter the criminal justice system get back on their feet. The Community Veterans Court was established in the Metropolitan Court in May 2016 by our current Chief Judge Sandra Engel. The program provides a collaborative effort of court supervision and treatment to ensure the best possible outcome for veterans and the community.

Through judicial oversight, supervised probation, treatment and counseling, CVC works to address the root cause of what brought a veteran into the criminal justice system.

Participation in the program is voluntary, and successful completion usually takes between six and 12 months, based on individual needs. There are two program tracks: a diversionary track for participants who are considered low-risk, and a post-plea track for those with greater needs. The program is open to those who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, the corresponding reserve branches or the National Guard.

Like many specialty courts, much of CVC’s success can be credited to a team approach. The team is made up of a program judge, specialized probation officers, a court clinician, an assistant district attorney, a public defender and a veteran’s justice outreach coordinator, who serves as the court liaison with the VA.

This team is passionate about helping the veterans in our program and hopes others can benefit from the many services that will be available to them at Resource Day. For more information on the event or the Community Veterans Court, please call (505) 841-8178.

Veterans Resource Day

Thirty-six agencies will be on site from 1-4 p.m. Thursday at Forward Flag Foundation, 2100 Aztec Road NE, Suite A.

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