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Fulton County to get access to Veterans Court

FULTON COUNTY, Ind. -- There are about 300 Veterans Courts in the country, and soon, there will be another one in Indiana.

In the ABC57 News viewing area, only St. Joseph County has a Veterans Court.

But, after the start of the new year, Fulton County will gain access to the treatment court. 

"It is a problem solving court. It's based off of the drug court model, and is considered a diversion program," says Eric Dungan. "The goal of the veterans court is to take someone's legal charges and puts them into that program."

Dungan is the veterans outreach justice coordinator for the VA of Northern Indiana.

His job is to help veterans navigate veteran treatment courts.

It's something that he says, is much needed.

"If you look at the arrest records of our veterans, male or female, they did not have any contact at all with the criminal justice system, until they came back from war," explains Dungan.

A lot of it has to do with issues, commonly associated with wartime.

This includes PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injruies.

"What we've seen in my line of work, is we've seen people self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, prescription medications, and things like that, and that leads them into the legal system," he adds. 

That's where the Veterans Courts come in.

It's a 18-24 month program, that puts veterans into treatment, rather than behind bars. 

Howard County is creating this new court, including Cass and Miami counties. 

But they're letting Fulton County, get in on the action. 

"There's a need in a lot of the counties, but some of the counties are more rural. Some of the counties just don't have the resources," says Dungan. "What's been happening, is the bigger counties have stepped up and said, 'okay, we'll do this. We'll run this, and you guys will have full access."

It's not a free bass, explains Dungan. 

Veterans are drug screened frequently and randomly, and are held accountable for their actions. 

He says the benefits are inspiring. 

"I can tell you, that in almost six years of doing this,I've probably had around 230-something veterans go through," explains Dungan. "And we've only failed 11."

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