In recognition of her work with area justice-involved veterans in the Garland County Veterans Court, Division I District Judge Meredith Switzer was recently presented with the Veterans Justice Outreach Partnership Award by Phyllis Wilkins, LCSW, of the Veterans Justice Outreach Program, a division of the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. The award presentation took place during the CHALENG (Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education, and Networking Groups for Veterans) meeting in Little Rock.
The Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) program aims to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among veterans by ensuring that eligible, justice-involved veterans have timely access to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services. VJO specialists provide direct outreach, assessment and case management for justice-involved veterans in local courts and jails and liaison with local justice system partners. Wilkins regularly works with area veterans during Garland County Veterans Court, which is held on the third Friday of the month in the Garland County Courts Building. She is joined by Stephen Ezelle, Disabled Veteran’s Outreach Program Specialist, who recently earned state and national honors from Disabled American Veterans (DAV) for the assistance he offers to area veterans through the Veterans Court, which was begun by Judge Meredith Switzer’s father, David Switzer.
“Through the Veterans Court, we employ a different perspective to help identify and address the underlying cause for the behavior of justice-involved veterans by linking them with the resources they need and deserve,” Judge Switzer said. “It’s a blessing and an honor to do so.”