Veterans Treatment Court Graduate Returns as Advocate
Not long ago, Chase Williams gave into his curiosity and started researching Operation Supply Drop. He’d heard about the organization from fellow Veterans and gamers through one of OSD’s annual fundraising campaigns, 8-Bit Salute. What made him want to take the next step of getting involved was something much larger than gaming. He saw an immeasurable value if he were to get involved. “I could see that I could influence my community through supporting Operation Supply Drop,” the Veteran reflected. He already knew the first place that he wanted to get involved.
In the brief time since he’s joined the ranks as the Veteran co-team leader of OSD’s Cincinnati Team, Williams has wasted no time. That’s how he found himself filled with anxiety and excitement last month as he entered Hamilton County’s Veterans Treatment Court. While his involvement with OSD has just started, Chase Williams has been a part of the story of the Veterans Treatment Court program for far longer.
Though the location and setting were very familiar to him, Williams’ first introduction to the Veterans Treatment Court was from a very different perspective. After a period of time struggling with PTSD, alcohol, and recurring negative influences, Williams felt like he’d hit a wall. It was then that he took what he says are the two most crucial steps for anyone in that situation. “First, acknowledge you have a problem. Second, push pride aside and ask for help. Make sure you are heard; ask until you are heard.”
Williams turned to someone that would hear his plea for help, someone he could trust to get him to the resources knew he needed. The Veteran reached out to his probation officer. Knowing about Williams military service from their history together over the years, the officer knew a change of location was needed. While the answer was not available in their county, it did exist just a few miles away. Williams was transferred to a Hamilton County facility where a newly formed Veterans Treatment Court program served to start the Veteran on the road to recovery in more ways than one.
In 2008 the first Veterans Treatment Court program began in Buffalo, NY. It was a compassionate judge’s attempt to handle the numerous cases where Veterans were arrested and appearing in court for nonviolent crimes. The cycle of service related Post Traumatic Stress, substance abuse as a method of self-medication, and subsequent arrests is one that has affected many Veterans. The Veterans Treatment Court program recognizes the truly complex nature of this cycle, the difficulty in breaking it, and the success when alternatives to prison are offered to Veterans willing to do the work. The program instead offers supportive services, peer mentorship, accountability, and a clear path for Veterans to break the cycle and regain stability in their lives.
The model works. It has now been replicated in nearly every state in the country. In Ohio, where the sixth highest Veteran population lives, there are 16 dedicated Veterans Treatment Courts. In Cincinnati, Judge Melissa Powers started Hamilton County’s program six years ago. She remains a strong advocate for its effectiveness.
It was Judge Powers who Williams spoke with when he attended Hamilton County’s Veterans Treatment Court a couple of weeks ago. Also present was probation officer, Ralph Sanders. Sanders was one of a handful of frequent visitors to Williams as he awaited court hearings. Even though he was one of the first Veterans to go through the county’s program, Williams was assured that he would be supported until he was a successful graduate of the program. The Veteran recalled that as he fought to overcome the obstacles, both around and within.
He recalls that promise still. Officer Sanders remembers, too.
When they all met again, the judge and officer both recognized the Veteran as one of the programs early graduates. In fact, as Williams surveyed the room he saw several familiar faces that had offered him encouragement and support throughout his journey. He was well-received and remembered by all. This meeting was a way for Williams to show what his journey had proved – that the Veterans Treatment Court is a program that offers hope and that the program and its supporters “had capabilities even they didn’t know they had.” It was also a way for the Veteran to let the program’s supporters and participants know about Operation Supply Drop, as Williams shared the new asset and community he’d discovered.
While their meeting was just the first of many to come. Judge Powers suggested that the OSD Cincinnati Team participate with Sanders and the local Veterans Treatment Court program on a community service project. Williams eagerly agreed and plans are underway for continued involvement as the Veteran shares what he’s learned, adding OSD to the list of resources available to Veterans. Chase Williams is grateful for his second chance and looks forward to the opportunity to share that hope, help, and the offer of friendship to the next Veteran in need.