Armstrong County Veterans Treatment Court conducted its inaugural Treatment Court Graduation Ceremony on Monday, August 17, 2020 at noon in Courtroom One at the Armstrong County Courthouse.
Social distancing measures were followed for the limited number of individuals attending and refreshments were served immediately following the ceremony in the Courthouse Annex.
The main goal of the Veterans Treatment Court is to rehabilitate and restore veterans as active, contributing members of the community while addressing their prior criminal actions through an intensive, year-long treatment program followed by a year of aftercare.
During the past year, the graduating veterans have appeared before the President Judge, the Honorable James J. Panchik, a minimum of twice a month. They also benefitted from weekly supervision by the probation department in addition to treatment and support from the Butler VA Hospital. Graduates also attended multiple weekly recovery meetings, and successfully completed mandatory community service.
Sergeant Brian Zebracki, the VA Court Coordinator for the program and Probation Officer with the Armstrong County Probation Office, summed up what event was all about. “This program is about restoring the veteran’s self, their families and ultimately their place in the community. It’s a successful reintegration back into society.”
The 2020 graduating class included a Sergeant First Class AGR-Active Duty, Retired, Army National Guard with 25 Years of Service, a seaman in the U.S. Coastguard with 3 Years of Service and a First Sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves with 31 Years of Service.
The keynote speaker for the graduation ceremony was former Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier. Robert Patrick "Rocky" Bleier was a Specialist in the U.S. Army and is a recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was a National Football League (NFL) halfback for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1968 and from 1970 to 1980. Mr. Bleier gave an inspiring speech on the importance of not only the Veterans Treatment Court, but also correlated parts of his life story with the accomplishments of the graduates and other veterans in attendance.
Rocky Bleier commented about his involvement with the Graduation Ceremony after the event.
“The fact that a Veterans Treatment Court has been established in Armstrong County is very important. We are striving to be a positive support mechanism in veterans’ lives, regardless of their struggles or setbacks. To be a part of such a wonderful program is truly extraordinary.”
The Honorable James J. Panchik, President Judge, commented on the days event.
“I’m pleased that we are able to accommodate the first graduating class of the Armstrong County Veterans Treatment Court. It’s been a collaborative effort that has been in place for a number of years. From the very beginning, we indicated that we wouldn’t proceed unless we could succeed; today is good, concrete evidence that this program has succeeded.”
The Judge also commented on the many individuals who came together to make the Veterans Court Project happen.
“This vital program would not be possible without the foresight and the financial support of the ACMH Foundation and the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission. Likewise, the court acknowledges the vigorous support of the Veterans Treatment Court Advisory Board Members, the Veterans Treatment Court Treatment Team Members, Armstrong County Commissioners, the District Attorney, and the Office of the Public Defender, Butler VA Hospital, and community providers. We dedicate special thanks to John Lewis, President and CEO, ACMH Hospital and Kami Anderson, Executive Director, AICDAC.”
John Lewis, ACMH Hospital President and CEO, spoke from the podium on the program:
“The ACMH Foundation is very pleased to be a founding sponsor of the Armstrong County Veterans Treatment Court. We extend special thanks to the additional donors and community members who have reached out to partner with the hospital foundation in supporting the program, most notably, the Margaret Patton and Bozzone Family Foundations.
At ACMH Hospital, our focus is often on the physical healing and rehabilitation of our patients. The Veterans Treatment Court addresses similar and equally important healing and rehabilitation processes though the programs they offer – tailored specifically to our deserving veterans.
We partner with the Veterans Treatment Court because we also recognize the valuable healing and rehabilitation that these individuals we honor today have accomplished through their successful completion of the Veterans Treatment Court program.
In turn, these individuals are now part of our healthier and stronger community – which is the ultimate goal of ACMH Hospital. We look forward to ongoing support of this program – and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of not only today’s graduates, but also the judges, mentors and county staff who assisted them on their journey. On behalf of the Board of ACMH Hospital, I thank you for letting us be part of today’s special event; it is my personal honor.”
About the Armstrong County Veterans Treatment Court
The Armstrong County Veterans Treatment Court is committed to assisting with early intervention, treatment, and rehabilitation of those adjudicated who have served in the military.
A veteran in contact with the justice system can be appropriately diverted into mental health and/or substance abuse treatment. Appropriate referrals and assistance with educational and employment goals may also be a part of the veteran's individualized plan.
The Armstrong County Veterans Treatment Court works in conjunction with ACMH Hospital, Armstrong Indiana Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission, Butler VA Health Care System and community providers to offer ancillary services to the veterans. The Court works in collaboration with the case managers to achieve those goals. Participation in Veterans Treatment Court requires a commitment ranging from one to two years and includes Stabilization, Transition, and Maintenance levels.