United States Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) visited Delaware Municipal Court Monday to participate in a roundtable discussion with the organizers, mentors and participants of the Delaware Mission Court.
Brown, who sits on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, spoke with officials from Mission Court, the city of Delaware’s veterans treatment court, as well as veterans who have participated in and graduated from the program.
One of the veterans at the roundtable, Steve Looney, told Brown about his experience after leaving the Navy and how the Mission Court helped him turn his life around.
“There’s a good line of people here who have helped me through some tough times in my life,” Looney said. “They directed me to some areas where I needed to go (like) counseling. They made me feel accountable for what I needed to do and where I needed to go.”
Another graduate of Mission Court, Don Hartsock, told Brown about how community service through the docket helped him.
“I was lost,” Hartsock said. “I ended up on the docket not knowing what to do with myself. Part of what the docket does … is have you do community service. What it gave me a feeling of … achievement. Without the docket, I would have never known about M.A.S.H. (Pantry and Resource Center). It’s something I enjoy.”
Hartsock said he began volunteering at the pantry first as community service but stayed even after his service was completed. He is now an administrator of the center.
Brown heard from many members on the panel that they, along with other veterans, struggled with the lack of network and structure when leaving the military. They said the docket court helped them after they got involved in the court system.
Tim Funk, co-founder of Stockhands Horses for Healing (a therapeutic riding center) on Olentangy River Road in Delaware, said he wished the Mission Court had been around when he left the Marines.
“Through this program, (veterans) are getting the help they need,” Funk said.
Jennifer Stamolis, a probation officer and the docket’s coordinator, said unconventional treatments like the therapeutic riding program at Stockhands or Save A Warrior have helped many veterans in the program.
“Judge (Marianne Hemmeter) and I have seen that unconventional treatments have amazing, amazing outcomes,” Stamolis said. “It’s awesome to see firsthand. I see them right after they commit the crime then I get to see them through the entire process. You can see a light comes on and it clicks. … I’m so proud of the docket and all the participants.”
After the discussion, Brown said his main takeaway from the panel was that Mission Court and programs like it are successful and can help veterans.
“Well, it’s clear this program works,” Brown said. “The VA is really, really important and does important work and really good work, but when volunteer organizations like these crop up, (it’s) because the military doesn’t look our for (veterans) when they leave. It’s up to the VA and it’s up to local communities like this, and we all have to do better.”
During the discussion, officials told Brown that only 29 of Ohio’s 88 counties have a veteran’s treatment docket, and Brown said he’d like to see Ohio legislators create more dockets like the one in Delaware.
“I’d like to see more,” Brown said. “This is up to the state, and the state has never served veterans very well. The state legislature and the governor just haven’t lived up to what we should be doing here. … The state has got to step up, particularly its mental health services.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.