The commander of the 910th Airlift Wing in Vienna Township said he is impressed with the dedication and operation of the Veterans Court established in Youngstown Municipal Court.
Col. James Dignan, commander at the airbase, spent the day Wednesday sitting in on a veteran’s court session, visiting with participants and speaking with Youngstown Municipal Judge Robert P. Milich, who spearheaded the creation of the Veterans Treatment Court.
“I heard about veterans court in the past, but was not aware of the one here. Judge Milich invited us to come in, so here we are. This shows the level of commitment to veterans here in the area,” said Dignan.
The Veterans Court is similar in concept to Municipal Court’s Drug and Mental Health Courts in that nonviolent offenders are given the option of treatment in lieu of jail. If they do not follow the treatment plan, they can be dropped from the program and sent to jail.
Veterans can have drug and mental-health problems that cause them to run afoul of the law, however, Judge Milich has said that having been in the military adds another layer of experience that needs to be taken into account when dealing with veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides treatment for those in veterans court, and it involves more of the Alcoholics Anonymous concept in that there will be volunteer mentors to assist veterans in the judicial system.
Dignan said the idea of mentors and treatment behind veterans court is a wonderful means of assisting veterans with these special needs.
“The idea behind veterans court is great, and it really shows veterans helping veterans,” he said. “This is a chance for a judge who is willing to help those veterans with their unique issues instead of just the normal criminal-justice course of action.”
Judge Milich is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who served four years on active duty and 24 years at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna. As administrator of the 910th Airlift Wing’s Medical Squadron, he served in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm.