Committee formed to evaluate mental health and veterans court in Brazos County

Brazos Commissioners approved a resolution for a committee that will examine the need for both veteran’s treatment court and a mental health court.
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Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 6:39 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting brought the next steps in bringing a veterans treatment court and mental health court to Brazos County.

Brazos County Commissioners approved a resolution for a committee that will examine the need for both veteran’s treatment court and a mental health court. This new committee will also be responsible for evaluating how the specialty courts will function, the total cost, and finding the individuals who will serve on it. A veterans court would take into account the unique struggles veterans face such as PTSD and substance abuse when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Brazos County Judge Duane Peters said a mental health court would also be beneficial to address a rise in mental health-related issues.

Peters said the commissioner’s court needed a committee that will help lead them forward and determine if the two specialty courts are needed.

“I’m not giving them director on how to come up with the facts,” Peters said. “My thoughts would be first figuring out how many veterans do we have that it’s going to impact. There’s a lot of rules that have to be addressed, potentially what crimes might qualify for somebody to go to a veterans court.”

While the committee examines a potential veterans court, the commissioners have no plans to take any action, Peters said. The same goes for the mental health court.

“We included the mental health issue in there too because I can tell you from everything I talked about with the jail and Julie Anderson there are probably several times issues in the jail with civilians, non-military that are having mental issues than there are veterans who are having issues in the jail,” Peters said.

Local veteran Lonny Masterson said mental health issues often go untreated and affect many people in the justice system.

“It’s kind of what came first the chicken or the egg,” Masterson said. “The mental health issues impact their ability to take care of their family, hold a job, just be self function, so we definitely need a mental health court and we definitely need a veterans court.”

Bentley Nettles who is an attorney and retired general with a purple heart will chair the committee. Nettles said he wants the committee to be open-minded about potential solutions.

“How do we think about trying to address this issue in a creative way that will be least expensive for the taxpayers,” Nettles said. “That’s what I’m going to really on these subject matter experts to come up with a potential solution that will be sustainable. If it adds value it’ll grow organically, if it doesn’t add value I suspect it will die on the vine.”

As the committee looks to bring in a veterans court that will help veterans back on track, Nettles said he hopes the committee can learn from the other 37 veterans courts in Texas.

“One of the problems that we tend to have from that structured environment of the military to that non-structured environment as a civilian is lack of structure,” Nettles said. “A veterans court a lot of times will give them that structure and give them that kick to get them moving back in the right direction.”

Veterans who have been vocal at meetings since December were happy with the next step.

“I’m ecstatic even to be a part of the process to get to this point we’re right here,” Patrick Baca, a local veteran and peer service coordinator for Brazos Valley said. “I think Judge Peters did an excellent job and there couldn’t be a better man for the job other than General Nettles.”

Masterson said the veterans still plan to be involved as plans for the two specialty courts moves forward.

”It’s kind of like we’re passing on the torch now, but we’re still going to be involved because this is an exploratory committee,” Masterson said. “We’ve been pushing for this for a while, so we know a lot of the information, so hopefully they tap into us and the resources we’ve already established.”

Peters said while it’s a step forward it may be some time until either court makes its way to the Brazos Valley, but the committee has been asked to move quickly.

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