Dunn, veterans groups honor program’s fifth anniversary

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Campbell

Campbell

The Dunn City Council and local veterans organizations honored the creators and those responsible for the week-to-week operation of Veterans Treatment Court. The presentation came during this week’s council meeting.

District 11A Veterans Court came into creation five years ago. It was the brainchild of District 11A District Attorney Vernon Stewart. District 11A is Harnett and Lee counties. He saw a TV news program about a similar operation in New York state. He enlisted the support of then Chief District Court Judge Andy Corbett and Clerk of Court Marsha Johnson, who secured the first funding. Eventually under the director of Mark Teachey, the first ever Veterans Court was launched in North Carolina. It serves a 60-mile radius involving 13 counties.

Mayor Oscar Harris, who is also American Legion Post 59 commander, read the proclamation. He said 92 percent of the veterans entering the program has PTSD or other mental health issues mostly related to wartime deployments.

The program provides mental health treatment and pairs the defendant, who has not committed serious violent crime, up with a mentor. Mayor Harris said many of the veterans have found jobs after entering the program and the re-offense rate is 4 percent compared to 50 percent for offenders nationwide.

Estimates are the court has saved taxpayers more than $8.5 million.

Mayor Harris said, “The All-America City of Dunn wishes to express our sincere appreciation to the District 11A Veterans Treatment Court for the assistance this program has already provided as well as for those who will be touched as you continue your focus, to help our American veterans by giving them the care and assistance that they deserve.

In addition to Mayor Harris, VFW Post 6767 Commander Robbie Hardison, DAV Chapter 74 Commander John Woods, Johnston County Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 990 Past Commander Ronnie Williams and former state Commander Eric Sinclair were on hand to make the presentation to Mr. Stewart, Mrs. Johnson, retired Judge Corbett, current Chief District Court Judge Jackie Lee and Mr. Teachey. There were other veterans organizations officials in the audience including Scott Jackson, Brenda Page, Cindy Godwin, Sherrill Bass, Ronnie Williams and Shirley Sinclair — all with American Legion Post 59 and Auxiliary Unit 59.

Judge Lee gave brief remarks, “We do take in broken individuals, broken in their service to their country.”

Judge Lee said her husband is a Vietnam veteran.

Mrs. Johnson said, “We help people and we’re all very proud of it.”

She invited the public to visit the court which is in courtroom No. 6 on the third floor of the courthouse. It meets Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m.

Also, the Dunn City Council passed a proclamation in honor of Black History Month read by Mayor Pro Tem Frank McLean. Mr. McLean also presided over the meeting for the final items in lieu of Mayor Harris.

K-9 Officer Wayne Johnson was awarded his advanced law enforcement certificate and K-9 certification. He brought Dunn’s new dog with him they call Pacman.

The Dunn Housing Authority’s Dunn Police officer was introduced. He is Carnell Campbell. He will be stationed at Washington Heights. The housing authority is providing the city with money for the position.

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