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LEE COUNTY VETERANS TREATMENT COURT PROGRAM:

Welcome to the LEE County Veterans Treatment Court Website for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Florida.

TABLE OF CONTENTS - LEE COUNTY VETERANS TREATMENT COURT PROGRAM


Introduction and Program Goals:

The Lee County Veterans Court program is a voluntary alternative for those formally diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI) and/or a substance use disorder and is facilitated and supported by Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) employees. The Treatment Courts Manager provides program oversight to ensure the services and team member responsibilities are achieved, including maintaining documentation, database and report maintenance, and establishing collaborative relationships with community service providers and the Veterans Administration. The designated AOC employee attends staffing and court and tracks outcomes while serving as a liaison between the team and the court.

The designated AOC employee will assist with the selection of defendants, the creation of incentives and sanctions, track defendant progress and court outcomes, research effective treatment modalities and facilitate team strategies for the program. Final acceptance is determined by the Court, pursuant to Florida Statute 394.47891.


What is Veterans Court?

The Lee County Veterans Court program represents an effort to identify and address the unique needs of veterans living with mental illness and/or a substance use disorder who have had a violation of the law resulting in arrest.

The program was developed to help veterans improve their quality of life and continue to be productive and responsible members of the community. The program is a voluntary alternative on the part of the defendant to the traditional criminal justice system. The Judge, court staff, Veterans Administration, legal counsel and treatment team offer select defendants guidance to successfully complete the program.

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Program Objectives

  • Increase effective cooperation between the criminal justice system and mental health and substance abuse treatment providers in our community
  • Assist select defendants struggling with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues who have committed a misdemeanor or felony offense
  • More efficient case processing, improved access to public and veterans mental health treatment and substance abuse services
  • Improved well-being and quality of life
  • Reduced chance of recidivism through treatment and education
  • Improve public safety for community at large

Program Criteria

Following arrest, defendants are identified as veterans and screened for VA Healthcare eligibility through contact with the Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator. Suitability for the program is determined through a series of screenings intended to promote public safety. Legal counsel explains the program and advises the defendant in making a decision regarding participation.

A Court Supervision Plan is developed cooperatively to specifically address the veteran's needs, taking into account existing community resources. The defendant, mental health and substance abuse professionals, and counsel must together agree to the Court Supervision Plan. Entry into Veterans Court is voluntary. Defense counsel continues to provide legal representation throughout the program. Successful completion of the Court Supervision Plan results in closure of the case either through dismissal of the defendant's charges, or possible completion of the probation.

Failure to complete the Court Supervision Plan or discharge from the program results in prosecution on the pending charges or a violation of probation.

Program Rules

Requirements, not limited to:

  • Regular court appearances
  • Remain alcohol, substance and non-prescribed medication free
  • Random drug and alcohol screens at own expense
  • Regular mental health and/or substance abuse treatment, typically conducted at the Lee County Veterans Administration Healthcare Clinic
  • Participation in the Veterans Mentoring program
  • Recovery groups and treatment recommendations must be followed
  • Take medications as prescribed by a physician
  • Follow all recommendations of the Court Supervision Plan
  • Regular contact and home visits with Outreach Specialist
  • Meet conditions of probation, when applicable

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Who is Eligible?

A defendant can only be accepted into Veterans Court as follows [generally stated]:

  1. Must be an honorably discharged Veteran, 18 years or older.
  2. Misdemeanor and felony charges are eligible for Veterans Court at the discretion of the Court and upon recommendation of the State Attorney's Office. Each case is reviewed on an individual basis.
  3. Veteran status must be established by a DD-214 and must be eligible for Veterans Administration Healthcare benefits.
  4. Suffering from a severe persistent mental illness, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and/or substance use disorder. Minor Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI’s) may be considered on an individual basis.
  5. Must be represented by an attorney.
  6. Must meet residency requirement [generally 30 days in Lee County prior to application].
  7. Must enter a guilty or no contest plea to each charge pending or charges may be deferred by the state attorney's office.
  8. Must have ability to comprehend and conform to the Veterans Court guidelines.
  9. Must be legally competent to proceed.
  10. Must be a clear nexus between mental health or substance use disorder diagnosis and criminal offense.

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Program Completion

In diversion cases, with successful completion of the Court Supervision Plan, the pending case will be dismissed by the State Attorney's Office. Probation may be terminated or defendant continued on regular supervision. Defendants will be successfully linked with mental health and substance abuse service providers that they can maintain for the future. Family and friends are invited to join the court as the Judge congratulates the defendant for successfully completing the Court Supervision Plan and achieving his/her goals.

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LOCATION & TIME

The Honorable H. Andrew Swett presides over the Lee County Veterans Treatment Court program. Court is typically held on Tuesday at 9:45 am in Courtroom 5G on the 5th floor of the Lee County Justice Center located at 1700 Monroe Street, Fort Myers Florida 33901.

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INFORMATION/CONTACTS

For more information about this program and/or to make a referral, please contact Lee County Criminal Division/Probation at (239) 533-9199. A referral form (download above) may also be submitted. For additional information contact:

Stacy Stiens
Fax Number: Attn: Stacy Stiens 239 485-2510
Administrative Office of the Courts
Lee County Treatment Courts
1700 Monroe Street
Fort Myers, FL 33901

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