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LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A new court program has opened in Dona Ana County that focuses on the substance abuse and mental health issues facing military veterans who have been charged with nonviolent crimes.

Las Cruces Sun-News reports the first hearing in the 3rd Judicial District Court’s Veterans Treatment Court program was held Wednesday.

The court program for veterans is one of four “problem-solving courts” at the district courthouse, which has separate drug courts for juveniles and adults aimed at helping rehabilitate repeat offenders whose offenses are driven by substance abuse. The veterans program is the first of its kind in southern New Mexico

The court also has a family reunification court that supports children neglected by parents who struggle with substance abuse, with the goal of reunifying families when parents become clean and sober.

The veterans program began accepting participants April 1. Five veterans are currently taking part.

Veterans participating in the new program will be given individualized treatment and counseling programs that run an average of 14 months or longer.

They also will be assigned to a mentor who served in the military and offers support during their treatment.

A veteran who successfully completes the program will have his or her charges dismissed.

Chief Judge Jim Martin said he was skeptical of treatment courts when he first became a judge. But after years of presiding over drug court, he said he became a convert.

“Drug courts work,” he said.


Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News,