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We have included basic Manatee County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) Information that you will need to know in order to be successful while in the program. If you have any questions, please ask your primary case manager or other treatment court staff. It is also good to know that some rules and practices change from time to time.
Welcome to the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court. This handbook is designed to answer questions and give you information about Manatee Veterans Treatment Court. As a participant of this Treatment Court, you will be expected to follow the instructions given to you by Judge Andrew Owens, Jr. and the Veterans Treatment Court Team. You will also be expected to follow all supervision and program rules and complete the treatment plan developed by you and your primary counselor and any other treatment goals presented by the Manatee Veterans Court Team.
This handbook will explain what is expected of you and it will help you move through the phases to successful completion. It will also provide general program information. We encourage you to share this handbook with your family, significant other, and clean and sober friends, who are an important part of your recovery.
This handbook provides you with a basic outline of the program. It gives you a clear understanding of what is expected of you during your participation in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court. This manual is also designed to answer questions, address concerns, and provide information about the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court. If you have additional questions, please ask your case manager or someone from the court staff for more details.
The Manatee Veterans Treatment Court is only for veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States as defined by federal law. The Manatee Veterans Treatment Court is a court-supervised program coupled with intensive treatment and supervision for high risk-high need criminal offenders. The Manatee Veterans Treatment Court is designed for Veterans who have a substance abuse and or mental health diagnosis and have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor crime.
This is a voluntary program, which includes regular court appearances before the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court judge. It also involves drug and alcohol treatment, random drug testing, support group meetings, vocational, job, and education referrals, and community supervision. The Manatee Veterans Treatment Court program has four phases. You must complete all phases successfully to graduate. The program requires a minimum of 6-24 months of participation depending upon your risk and need assessment.
You must have served in the United States Armed Forces in some capacity. Your criminal history will be reviewed by the State Attorney Office, Veterans Court staff, and the arraigning Judge. If you are eligible based on this initial assessment, you will then be scheduled for a substance abuse and mental health evaluation. The purpose of this evaluation is to determine whether or not you are drug and/or alcohol dependent or have any mental health issues which can be addressed. The outcome of this evaluation will determine your placement in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court and you shall be allowed to enter a plea.
The Manatee Veterans Treatment Court program began in August, 2015 and was developed to help you achieve abstinence from substance abusive behavior, address your mental and physical issues, and be diverted from incarceration in the criminal justice system and to have a more satisfying, law-abiding life. The mission of the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court is to reduce crime and substance abuse by veteran offenders through substance abuse and mental health treatment and judicial supervision, while promoting educational and vocational participation and improved social functioning, resulting in decreased recidivism and a safer community. The Manatee Veterans Treatment Court program is a voluntary program. You must choose participate in this court. The judge, court staff, probation officers, treatment counselors and other team members will guide and assist you, but the final responsibility is yours.
The Manatee Veterans Treatment Court works with the Veterans Outreach Center, Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefit Administration, veterans employment representatives, veterans service organizations, service officers and other stakeholders in the community. Upon successful completion of the program your legal commitments will be terminated. This team will be working with you towards successful completion of the program.
It is important that you understand the long-term commitment involved in this program. You will become involved with community support group meetings, attend substance abuse treatment, participate in mental health treatment, if indicated, be subject to strict community supervision, submit to random drug testing and make regular appearances in Court.
Following your acceptance into the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court, you will report to Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Office and complete intake. You will then be assigned to a primary counselor who will manage your clinical case while in the program. You will also meet with a case manager who will assess your current life strengths and deficits, to include employment, education, living and other needs. You will also be assigned a Department of Corrections Probation Officer who will provide community supervision of your case. Depending upon your needs assessment, you may be required to contact other agencies and professionals to fill those gaps.
The following are terms commonly used by people in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) Court Program. Some of you have never heard many of the terms or may recognize them in a different setting. The purpose of this section is to help you understand some of the words used and understand many of the required activities of the program. If you have any questions, please contact a VTC staff for clarification.
Case Management - Case Management is when a VTC works to make sure you get services you need besides group and individual sessions. Case management includes housing, employment, education, anger management, and other services which the VTC does not provide directly, but is understood to help you succeed not only in program, but in life. Our Case manager will work with you and other VTC staff and outside agencies in obtaining these services if available.
Confidentiality - Confidentiality means privacy and refers to not talking about program issues outside of the VTC setting. This means if you hear someone say something in a group setting about an issue they have, you cannot discuss this outside of the program. It simply means what happens in VTC program, stays in VTC program.
Counseling - Counseling occurs when you talk about your problems or issues related to your substance abusing behavior. Counseling may happen in group or one on one with your primary counselor. In each phase, you will be required to attend a certain amount of counseling groups and one on ones. Your primary Counselor is the person you are assigned to discuss issues with during your participation in the program, this person may be in-house or you may be assigned to someone from an outside agency.
Fees - Fees are the costs you pay to participate in the VTC. As a condition of this diversion program, each participant in VTC pays $10 per week to the Clerk of the Court to participate in the Manatee VTC. Payments are made to the Clerk of the Court, Located at 2000 Main St. (Old Historical Court House). You may need a photo ID and may pay in the form of check, cash, money order, or credit card. You are to turn in your receipt to the VTC by Friday of each week by 12:00pm. Participants may perform public service hours in lieu of payment at a rate of $10.00 an hour.
Groups - Groups are when two or more people meet with a counselor or therapist to discuss issues related to their substance abusing behavior. Issues may include family, career, education, free time, etc. In each phase, each participant is required to perform a certain amount of groups each week.
Nurse Practitioner - A Nurse Practitioner is a medical professional with an advanced nursing degree. The Nurse Practitioner is able to diagnose certain psychological disorders as well as provide medication to treat these disorders. The Nurse Practitioner may also refer the participant to a specialist in order to receive more specific treatment. All participants will be required to see the Nurse Practitioner.
Phases - Phases are the different levels a person goes through in the program. There are 4 phases in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court. Each phase has certain things a person must do to move from one level to the next and finally graduate from the program. As you move up in phases, many of the requirements decrease.
Probation - Probation is a form of legal supervision where a person who has committed a crime is allowed to continue to live in the community while being supervised by an Officer of the Department of Corrections. While on probation there are certain restrictions placed upon the person which the officer will go over with you. If you break or violate any of these restrictions, you may be violated and placed in jail. Your Probation Officer (PO) will go over all requirements with you during your first visit with her or him.
Public Defender’s Office - The Public Defender’s Office (PD) provides legal representation to people who are unable to pay for a private lawyer. Many Veterans Treatment Court participants are represented by the PD’s Office. If you are unsure if you are represented by the PD’s Office, please discuss this issue with the VTC Judge in order to make sure you are represented legally.
Public Service - Public service is when you work at a local non-profit in order to complete certain program requirements. Public service may be used as a sanction and an incentive. As a sanction, it may be assigned due to not completing certain phase requirements or the failure to complete other phase requirements. As an incentive, it may be assigned to help a person pay their fees in the event of the loss of a job or inability to pay.
Recovery/12-Step Meetings - Recovery meetings, also known as self-help or AA/NA meetings are held at various locations in the community. All Veterans Treatment Court participants are required to attend a minimum of 1 meeting weekly. You may choose the meeting which works best for you. This is also where you will find your sponsor for the program.
Relapse Group - Relapse group is a specialized group for Veterans Treatment Court Participants who have a positive urine test. Participants are required to attend relapse group(s) for positive urine tests whether or not he or she receives a jail sanction.
Sanctions - Sanctions are actions the Judge takes in relation to your progress or lack of progress in the Veterans Treatment Court Program. If a person tests positive on a urine test, the sanction may include public service, jail, or some other action the Judge orders. The idea is that a sanction is in response to your progress in the program.
Mentor - A mentor is someone who has had military service and is there to help you navigate through the program. The mentor is someone you can meet outside of the program to talk about life issues or to just connect with. Mentors are not counselors, their role is to be someone with whom you can connect and identify with in the event you want to talk with someone who may have been through what you are going through. Mentors must be the same sex of the mentee.
Veterans Services Coordinator (VSC) - The VSC is someone who can connect or direct you to appropriate veterans support organizations and mentors. Many of the people in these organizations are veterans themselves and understand many of the issues you are experiencing.
Substance abuse and mental health treatment may be provided by multiple agencies depending upon your needs and may include Centerstone of Florida, the Veterans Health Administration or other community treatment providers. Centerstone of Florida is the primary substance abuse and mental health treatment provider for the Manatee and Sarasota Treatment Courts, but the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court may refer you case for services through the Veterans Health Administration. After intake, you will be assessed and a treatment plan will be developed and will group and or individual counseling. The schedule will be determined by the treatment agency, but attendance is required. You may be required to attend more groups or individual sessions depending upon your treatment plan. Each treatment plan is individualized. You are responsible for attending all scheduled appointments. Missing scheduled appointments will result in sanctions. Substance abuse counseling is comprised of three separate formats, individual, group sessions and case management. As part of your treatment plan, you will be required to participate in all. Together they are designed to develop self-awareness, realize self-worth and practice self-discipline. The individual and group counseling sessions will include problem identification and alternative solutions. Your attendance and level of participation at counseling sessions will be reported to the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Team as part of your progress reports. It is your responsibility to contact your primary counselor in the event of any emergencies which may affect your ability attend any scheduled appointments.
You will be urine drug tested during all phases. All urine drug testing will be done on a random basis. The Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Team will have access to all drug test results including any failures to test, and may order a drug test at any time. Results that indicate a sample was diluted may be subject to the same sanctions as if the result were positive. The goal of the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Program is to help you achieve total abstinence from illicit or illegal drugs, however, a positive or “dirty” test will not automatically disqualify you from the program. The Manatee Veterans Court team will be review positive tests in the context of your overall performance in the program.
All client records are protected by federal and state laws regarding confidentiality. We cannot release written or verbal information without your written signed consent. However, you cannot participate in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court without a “Release of Information” which allows the court team to discuss your case and progress in treatment. Persons outside the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Team will not be provided information about you or your progress. There may be additional emergency or legal circumstances that may require release of information such as:
Anything you say concerning your prior or current drug use while in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court program cannot be used against you in prosecution of this case. However, your statements and information about your treatment will be shared with the Judge and anyone else on the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court team. This information may be used to evaluate your current compliance with the program and to determine appropriate treatment and other services.
Participants have the right to courteous, dignified and reliable delivery of service. Participation in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court program is voluntary. Participants will be informed of changes in the program’s rules and policies as early as possible. Client participation and feedback in the program is encouraged. Equal treatment and services will be delivered without regard to race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, ancestry or physical disability.
Absences - In the event you are unable to attend any VTC function, it is your responsibility to call the VTC Office and speak with your primary case manager or some other VTC staff in the event your primary case manager is unavailable. In the event you are excused from any VTC activity to include court hearings, urine samples, groups, or meetings, you will be required to provide documentation to verify your circumstances.
Attire - It is important to dress appropriately when attending VTC functions such as court hearings, groups, and one on one counseling sessions. No clothing advertising drugs, alcohol, or sex may be worn to the VTC office and is prohibited when attending court sessions. Dress is to be moderate. This means clothing is not to be excessively tight or form fitting. Shorts, skirts, and dresses are not to be excessively short so as to be distractive. VTC staff has the right to turn you away if your attire does not meet the appropriate standards.
Behavior - VTC participants are expected to monitor their behavior both in and out of the program. While at the VTC Office or during court hearings, participants are expected to be considerate of the Judge, the VTC staff, as well as other VTC participants. Behavior that may be perceived as threatening or disrespectful will not be tolerated. A failure to keep one’s behavior appropriate may result in a sanction from the Judge to include termination.
Electronics - Electronics such as cell phones, Ipods, mp3 players must be turned off in both court proceedings and groups. Headphones are not allowed in either activity.
Food and Drinks - You are not allowed to eat, drink or chew gum while in Court or the group room. Please dispose of these items before you enter the Offices or Courtroom.
Holidays - The VTC Office is closed on certain holidays; you will be notified in advance of these holidays and are excused from all VTC activities during those times.
Visitors - Visitors are not allowed to enter the VTC Office areas. A visitor may sit in the waiting area until you have completed your business here. You may bring visitors to court with you, but all visitors are subject to the same rules as VTC Participants.
Parking - The Manatee County VTC provides free parking. Free parking is available in the attached parking garage or behind the building. If you park in the garage, the office will validate your stamp.
Punctuality - It is the responsibility of all VTC participants to be on time for all VTC activities. If you know you will be late, please call the VTC Office to notify staff.
Some of the information on this page is found in other sections of this handbook, but this information is so important, we want you to be able to quickly access it so that you will know what to do in the event you are prescribed or use certain valid medications.
It is important that you tell us when you are prescribed any medications by your doctor or when you are taking any over the counter medication. Following this rule helps us to gauge your willingness to receive treatment and will also help us not to assign a positive to a urine sample that you submit.
Illegal drugs are not permitted and are not to be taken by any VTC participant. This includes drugs such as cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs that are not yours, marijuana, etc.
Alcohol, while legal, is not allowed to be consumed by VTC participants. Use of alcohol violates VTC program rules and you will be sanctioned for its use.
Psychiatric medications are allowed, but you must see our contracted Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) to ensure you are taking your medication properly. The ARNP will be able to answer any questions you have about your medications and possible side effects and may also be able to offer a more affordable alternative.
Other prescription medications such blood pressure medication, antibiotics and such are allowed, but once again, it is important that you provide us with a copy of your most recent prescription so that we are aware that you are taking these medications as they have been prescribed to you.
Over the counter medications are allowed, but the rules are the same for these medications as with other types of medications. It should also be noted, the use of over the counter medications are for short-term use not long-term. If you have persistent symptoms, we recommend you see a doctor or the ARNP for a more complete diagnosis.
Supplements such as vitamins, herbs, and minerals are allowed, but as with medications, should be taken with caution. Many supplements may have side effects when taken with prescribed medications. Please let the lab personnel know that you are taking certain supplement.
Graduation and Prescribed Narcotics: VTC participants shall not be allowed to graduate while on narcotics. While the VTC recognizes there are times when a physician may prescribe narcotics to their patients, the goal of the VTC is to help you learn how to function without dependence upon drugs and alcohol. In light of this philosophy, if you receive a prescription for narcotic medication within 90 days of your graduation, you must have at least 30 days of clean time prior to graduating from the VTC. The risk for abuse of narcotics is too great of a risk for the program to allow you to leave while utilizing these medications. It is imperative that you request a non-narcotic alternative when you visit your doctor.
Cannot graduate while using any narcotic medications prescribed or not!
* If it is verified that you do not have a substance abuse problem, you do not have to attend 12 step NA/AA meetings or a sponsor, however all veterans will have to have a mentor.
As a Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Program participant, you will be required to appear in Court on a regular basis. At each appearance, the Judge will be given a progress report prepared by the treatment staff and supervision officer regarding your drug test results, employment status, attendance and participation at required treatment and supervision appointments. The Judge may ask you or your counselor questions about your progress. Excellent reports mean that you will progress through the program more quickly. Failure to comply with any of the requirements may delay your promotion or graduation. The goal of the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Program is to help you achieve total abstinence from illicit and illegal drugs, address your individual treatment needs and avoid future arrests.
Failure to appear in Court on the date and time you are scheduled will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. If you cannot appear in Court on your scheduled review date, you must notify your counselor prior to the miss. If you have an emergency, you must notify supervision or your coordinator as soon as possible to avoid a sanction.
Your Probation Officer will discuss your rules and conditions of probation, including: curfew, employment, law enforcement contact and change of address. You must provide verification of employment to your Probation Officer and also bring it to court. Your Probation Officer will make random field and home visits to assess and observe your home and to verify your job. Drug testing may be conducted randomly during home visits or scheduled during office visits or court appearances.
The Manatee Veterans Treatment Court provides incentives to encourage your progress. Incentives maybe received for excellent participation, clean time, new job, college attendance, driver’s license reinstatement, etc. Incentives can include; praise from the Judge, decreased court appearances, decreased random drug screens, permission to travel and phase advancement certificates. Incentives are given to recognize successes you have achieved in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court program.
If you fail to comply with the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Program rules, you may be sanctioned. Sanctions are progressive and become stiffer for repeat violations. In higher phases, the expectation is that you will not have any sanctions; therefore, the sanctions imposed may be stiffer than for lower phases. Sanctions are individualized to your situation and should not be compared against sanctions given to someone else. Below are some common sanctions:
Attendance will be required at support group meetings such as Celebration Recovery, Narcotics (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), SOS and/or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) if you have a substance abuse issue. All phases must complete 4 outside meetings per week if required. The purpose of attendance at support group meetings is for you to develop a support network and create social bonds with other recovering addicts. You will be provided with information regarding the time and location of support meetings at orientation. Your treatment provider, supervision officer and coordinator can also assist you with locating meetings close to your work or residence. Treatment will also provide several support groups at their building each week.
Recovery from substance addiction means developing self-sufficiency and becoming a productive and responsible member of the community. After Phase I, you will be expected to work with the Veterans Services Coordinator to become employed or involved in an educational or vocational training program. The Veterans Services Coordinator can assist you in obtaining an assessment of your vocational and/or educational goals and skills and will refer you to the proper agencies for education, training and job placement. A veterans’ employment specialist from the Veterans Outreach Center is also available to assist you.
As a Manatee Veterans Treatment Court participant, you will be required to follow these following rules:
This includes: no new law violations, no new arrests, no driving without a valid license and no traffic offenses. All federal, state and local laws must be followed.
You must attend individual and group counseling, educational sessions and case management appointments at treatment WHEN treatment schedules you. Appointments with supervision will include intake, office visits, home visits and phone calls. Drug testing is required on the same day your drug testing color is called. Court attendance is mandatory. Community service must be completed by the due date. Other appointments for services at community agencies may also be required. If you are unable to attend a scheduled session, you must contact the appropriate person as soon as possible. Documentation is required for you to be excused and rescheduled. Documentation regarding the miss will be requested by treatment, supervision and the court. Unexcused absence(s) will result in a sanction.
If you are late, you may not be allowed to attend and will be considered as a miss. Failure to plan is not an excuse. Being late is grounds for a sanction.
If you miss any scheduled appointment, you are responsible for rescheduling it! You may not be contacted to reschedule. Failure to do so may result in a sanction.
Do not act violently or make threats towards other participants, staff or court personnel. Violent or inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated and will be reported immediately to the Court. Threats or intimidation toward anyone will not be tolerated. Either of these violations may result in your termination from the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Program.
You cannot have any drugs, alcohol or weapons. Do not bring any of these banned items to treatment, supervision, any community agency or court. Possession of drugs, alcohol or weapons could immediately result in your termination from the program and you could get new charges.
As a participant, you will be expected to wear a shirt or blouse, pants, dress, or skirt of reasonable length. Midriff shirts are not allowed. No sleeveless tops or short skirts. Shoes must be worn at all times. Clothing bearing drug or alcohol related themes or advertising alcohol or drug use is considered inappropriate. Sunglasses are not to be worn inside the Court or at the treatment facility unless medically approved. Speak with your supervision officer or treatment counselor if you need assistance with clothing choices. No gang colors or gang related apparel is allowed.
Participants in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court have the right to courteous, dignified and reliable delivery of service. Participation in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court program is voluntary. Participants will be informed of changes in the program, rules and policies as early as possible. Client participation and feedback in the program is encouraged. Equal treatment and services will be delivered without regard to race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, ancestry or physical disability.
Warrants, new arrests or noncompliance could result in you being terminated from the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Program and sentenced on your pending charge(s). Noncompliance violations which could result in termination include; consistently missing drug tests or testing positive, missing treatment and/or supervision appointments, repeatedly breaking the program rules, and/or violence or threats of violence directed at other participants, treatment staff, or other Court team members. Being in bars, night clubs, casinos or at concerts may result in a termination.
You will have several opportunities to withdraw from the program after application including prior to entry of plea. During this period, if you choose to opt-out of the program, your case will be transferred back to the referring Judge.
We hope this handbook has been helpful to you. If you have any additional questions or concerns about the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Program, please feel free to contact your case manager or any member of the Court room staff.
Good luck to you and thank you for your service to our country!
*Must be here by 5:00 pm to participate in final group.
**Must be here by 6:00 pm to participate in final group.
***Must be here by 5:30 pm to participate in final group.