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      First U.P. treatment court for veterans introduced in Dickinson County

      For over a year, Dickinson County veteran advocates and the 95-B District Court system have been working to introduce a Veteranâ??s Treatment Court program for veterans charged with certain alcohol and drug offenses.

      â??Itâ??s actually very similar to the way sobriety court runs,â?? said 95-B District Court Judge, Christopher Ninomiya. â??The principles are very similar, but veterans have a very specialized set of treatment needs. A lot of times they're dealing with issues such as PTSD, closed-head injuries, injuries that can really complicate issues related to substance abuse and drug abuse.â??

      Michael Matwyuk, a social worker at the VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain, says the program is not a 'get out of jail free' card; rather, itâ??s a different approach to recovery.

      â??What people have to understand is that in order to get into the military, you can't have a criminal history,â?? Matwyuk said. â??A lot of times these veterans return, come back, and all of sudden, they start to get in trouble with the law.â??

      The treatment court program will be different for each veteran according to their eligibility, but the program focuses heavily on accountability and mentoring.

      â??Weâ??re going to have veteran mentors that are involved in this treatment court,â?? said local Veterans Affairs director, Chuck Lantz. â??The veteran mentor will make sure the veteran is following the steps they're supposed to take.â??

      The veterans will also meet bi-weekly with Judge Ninomiya to check their progress.

      â??Veterans really respond very well to structure,â?? Matwyuk said. â??They respect authority, they respect the structure and that's what a veteran's court provides for them.â??

      Since the program is specifically for veterans, who are able enroll at the VA, it comes at no cost to neither them nor the county.

      â??Weâ??re hoping to bring some awareness to these issues, and help them get the assistance and treatment they need,â?? Ninomiya said. â??Thatâ??s really the least we can do for all those people who have served selflessly for our country.â??

      The program officially starts September 1.