Two men graduated Monday from Christian County Veterans Treatment Court in front of their counselors, judges, family and fellow program participants.
Military veterans James Jones, 32, Hopkinsville, and Brandon Purviance, 33, Benton, both had a chance to speak to the crowd and address their progress through the veteran-focused rehabilitation program.
Each was introduced by a special person who helped them along the process.
For Jones, it was drug court therapist Amber Galland, who started working with the group last August. Within that timeframe, Galland said she saw Jones overcome his dependency on drugs and refocus his life on the right things.
"He's worked hard," she said. "He's had a couple of hiccups but nothing major. He's done an awesome job, and it's been your willingness that got you here."
Jones acknowledged that he started the program in January 2018 thinking he would avoid jail time, complete the requirements, then go back to his old ways. However, once he started working with the therapists, he couldn't stay the same.
"I started to see a different side of things," he said, "the error of my ways and how much time I wasted using and running the streets. I didn't pay attention to the things I should have, like myself and my family and just progressing as a man.
"They (the treatment court staff) really helped me learn how to live life without drugs and certain friends," he continued. "After awhile, I started to see a better life for myself."
Veterans Treatment Court seeks to empower veterans with the ability to "reintegrate back into supportive, healthy relationships through the collaborative efforts of a judicially supervised treatment program, thereby reducing the rate of incarceration, improving their level of functioning and enhancing public safety," according to the court’s mission statement. The program lasts from 15 to 18 months, and participants must take random drug screenings and attend group meetings with other veterans.
Purviance, who served in the Kentucky National Guard for 12 years, found his way to veterans treatment court after getting a DUI. When the judge offered him the option of going through the treatment program instead of going to jail, he chose the former.
"It gave me an opportunity to fix a problem I had been dealing with for a long time," Purviance said. "When I went to Iraq, it wasn't until the second time that I really started having issues, and I found myself depending on self medicating. With this program and the counselors here, they helped me identify those issues and the effects on me."
Jones said he served in Army infantry for five years and was stationed overseas in Germany when he was introduced to drugs that led to an addiction.
"I used it to deal with PTSD and the headaches and stress, and I never dealt with it until I started talking to (the therapists) and was sober," Jones said.
Since graduating from the program, both have found new career paths and hope to encourage other veterans to speak up and ask for help when needed.
"Definitely be honest with your (Veterans Affairs) representatives," said Purviance, who has applied to work for Kentucky State Police. "Tell (the VA) that you have a problem, and make sure that (you) understand that it's not going to be a problem (to ask for help). You need to seek help, but they are afraid to seek help."
That's why Jones hid his addiction.
"For me, I didn't want to go ask for help," he said. "When you're in the Army and when it comes to being a man, you feel like you're being weak. But, now I know I can tell other men and other veterans to ask for help. You're not being weak when you ask for help."
Jones is now enrolled at Hopkinsville Community College and is set to graduate in December. He plans to continue his education at Murray State University studying exercise science.
Christian District Judge J. Foster Cotthoff said veterans treatment court is an aspect of his job that he loves. Cotthoff was elected judge after the previous district judge Jim Adams and co-creator of the local veterans treatment court retired, but he knew he would continue offering the program during his tenure.
"It's an honor to be a part of this program," Cotthoff said. "Judge (Andrew) Self and Judge Adams started this and they helped those who signed up, whether they stayed in the military for a week or 20 years, they signed up, and the least we can do is help them when they need help. So, I'll continue to ride you when I need to ride you and I'll continue to praise you when you deserve it. You guys make me be a better judge and make me want to help more people."
Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.