Brown County Judge Paul Lilly said he hopes to have the first session of a veterans court — a one-day-a-month docket for veterans who claim PTSD or other issues as factors in misdemeanor, non-violent offenses — in November.
The veterans court status was one of several topics Lilly and other county officials discussed with the media Thursday morning in Lilly’s office.
At 9 a.m. Monday, the commissioners court meeting will include public hearings on the proposed tax rate and budget for the 2019-’20 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Bob Contreras, who works as grant writer and government relations coordinator, said the Brown County Veterans Services Office provides services to 1,528 veterans.
“We’re gong to create a veterans court with the help of local mental health agencies and psychologists,” Contreras said. “There’s little or no cost associated with this. It’s merely a matter of setting up your docket (for veterans) who claim that they may have PTSD or something that influenced their crime.”
Lilly said the Center for Life Resources would be available to provide assistance.
As judge, Lilly said, he would take a claim of PTSD “into consideration. It does not excuse the behavior in any way. What I might do is reduce the amount of punishment in lieu of court-ordered counseling with Center for Life Resources, and that would be how we would assist that veteran with their PTSD and any other issues that they’re suffering from.”
Lilly said he hopes to have the veterans court operating by the end of 2019 but hopes to have the first one in November.
Lilly said while there aren’t many offenses in which PTSD is claimed, “we do have some and I want to give them the opportunity to get the help they need. We owe them everything we can give back to them and this is one way we’re going to do this.
“This is going to cost us, on many occasions, nothing other than our time in the courtroom. We’re not bringing in an extra judge, there’s no ancillary costs. And if we get into it and find out that there are, Mr. Contreras has identified a fantastic grant program that we could request reimbursement funds from. I don’t anticipate it costing the county taxpayer a dime.”
Sheriff Vance Hill discoursed on how the sheriff’s office will be impacted by pay raises for deputies and funding for two additional patrol deputies in the budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which the commissioners court will adopt later this month.
Lilly also discussed additional funding for volunteer fire departments the new budget will provide.
Brown County Emergency Management Coordinator David Creed said another new program underway is to have a volunteer chaplaincy program for volunteer fire departments. Dave Fair and Rick Phelps, who currently respond as chaplains for law enforcement, have agreed to serve as fire department chaplains, Creed said.