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Deschutes DA Hummel set to launch ‘Veterans Intervention Strategy’

(Update: Adding video, Hummel comment)

Public invited to Monday launch of inter-agency team effort to help vets in court system access needed resources

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Next Monday -- two days before Veterans Day -- Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel will launch the county's "Veterans Intervention Strategy," an effort to help veterans involved in the court system move toward a stable, positive life.

In Thursday's announcement, Hummel's office called the VIS a " veteran-focused initiative, providing justice-involved veterans with the opportunity to access treatment and resources they need to successfully address mental health illnesses and substance use disorders."

"The aim of this initiative is to provide our local veterans, suffering from service-related health issues, the ability to improve their health and create a stable and positive civilian life," the news release stated.  

Hummel told NewsChannel 21 he conceived and developed the program, collaborating with partners to make it happen. He also explained how the program will work, noting there are about 150 to 200 cases each year involving veterans in Deschutes County courts.

"If you go through your intervention program, you work it, at the end of 12 months, one year, if you stayed out of trouble, done everything that you and the reps at the Vet Center think is in your best interest, the charge will be either dismissed for less serious charges, or there might be a reduced charge if it was a more serious charge," he said.

"We're not going to dismiss super-serious charges," Hummel added, "but we would reduce the charges, in recognition of your service to our country."

A socially distanced outdoor event will be held at the Central Oregon Vet Center on Monday at 10 a.m. to announce the launch of VIS. The Vet Center is located at 1645 NE Forbes Road in Bend.

The public is encouraged to attend to learn more about the Veterans Intervention Strategy. 

For over a decade, there has been expressed interest by many in Deschutes County to offer a specialized program for justice-involved veterans.

Due to our community’s growing population, and the Deschutes County’s Circuit Court’s continued judicial staffing shortage, the county has been unable to launch a veterans treatment court.

"It was time to rethink the format of a specialty veterans program in order to find a solution that would work for our community," the announcement said.

Hummel said, “Deschutes County has been remiss in not providing justice-involved veterans a targeted program. The traditional criminal justice system does not effectively address mental health illnesses or substance use disorders, so we continue to see the same individuals in court. We needed to resolve this issue, and the Veterans Intervention Strategy is part of the solution.”

“Participating veterans will access the services and treatments required to help them improve their lives and leave the criminal justice system behind for good," the DA added. "And for those that are not ready for change, the program is structured to ensure we can still hold them accountable for their actions.” 

The VIS is an inter-agency team involving the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office, the Central Oregon Vet Center, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, Deschutes County Community Justice, Deschutes Defenders, and Kollie Law.

This veteran-focused team will connect veterans to care providers and veteran service organizations across the county and will actively monitor each participant’s progress throughout their program term.

Participating veterans will also be connected with veteran mentors who understand what they are going through and can support them as they address these personal health challenges.  

The VIS is not a veteran’s treatment court, Hummel's office said -- it is a collaborative program that incorporates key element of the successful veterans treatment court model, and is structured to effectively and sustainably balance the county’s available resources and the needs of our veterans. 

Amanda Juza, Vet Center director, said, “The Central Oregon Vet Center is excited to participate in the VIS Program.  We are looking forward to working with our community partners to ensure the Veterans in Central Oregon are given a path to treatment and an opportunity to engage with in the Veteran community of Central Oregon. 

"The veterans of this community have been asking for services for justice-involved veterans, and we are so grateful to the District Attorney’s Office along with Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and Bend Police Department for not giving up and being willing to invest in the veterans of Central Oregon.” 

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