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Newton County hosts first Veterans Court graduation
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Robert Dorse (center) holds his Newton County Veterans Treatment Court certificate with Judge Horace Johnson (left) and NCVTC Coordinator Richard Kringer (right).

COVINGTON, Ga. - The Newton County Veterans Treatment Court celebrated its first graduation Thursday, April 4, with Robert T. Dorsey completing the program.

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Richard Kringer presents Robert Dorsey with the Veterans Treatment Court Challenge Coin.

Under the guidance of Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson, the Newton County Veterans Treatment Court began on Jan. 1, 2017, and currently has six participants. The mission of the NCVTC is to promote public safety and support and assist veterans and their families. This is accomplished by responding, coordinating and advocating for integration to community resources and providing a path to wellness recovery and rehabilitation; thereby, ending future involvement as a criminal defendant with the criminal justice system.

“I’m excited to have an opportunity to preside over this particular treatment court — the veterans court — and see transformations of people who were, frankly, heading to prison,” Johnson said. “We were able to intervene and offer some needed treatment for them is terrific.”

Dorsey is the first graduate of this program, which is coordinated by Richard Kringer and operated with a team of others to help facilitate treatment rather than incarceration for local veterans who meet certain qualifications. The program, which lasts a minimum of 18-24 months, also consists of support from three veteran mentors — David Norman, James Johnson and Gil Baca.

Norman was a mentor to Dorsey, helping lead him through the program with the experience of a fellow veteran of the United States Armed Forces.

“Sometimes we go through a lot of things when we served and we need a lot of help,” Dorsey said in his graduation speech. “I ask that you continue to look at (the veterans) with compassion because we need it.”

The court provides some of that compassion by substituting a treatment problem-solving model for traditional court processing. After being identified through evidence based screening and assessments, the veterans voluntarily participate in the judicially supervised treatment plan, which is overseen by a team of court staff, veteran health care professionals, veteran peer mentors and health care professionals.

Dorsey, like all of the NCVTC participants, was referred to the program by a Newton County judge. He now stands as an example to other veterans who find themselves in a Newton County courtroom with options for a path other than prison.

“This was a great day to have the first person graduate from the program,” Johnson said. “Out of 49 Judicial circuits in the state, we are one of 17 to offer this program. I am happy to preside over this one here.”

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The Newton County Veterans Treatment Court team and graduate Robert Dorsey in the Newton County Judicial Center.