Maine Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court

See Also: Drug Treatment Courts FAQ, Family Treatment Drug Courts, Adult Drug Treatment Courts

What is the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court (CODVC)?

The Maine Co-Occurring Disorders began admitting adults with significant substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses and serious criminal charges in 2005.  The Honorable Nancy Mills of the Superior Court founded this docket in collaboration with the Kennebec and Somerset County District Attorney and numerous other community and state partners and has continued to preside since its inception.  This docket provides intensive judicial monitoring, case management, specialized treatment, and other services.  Its goals include promoting recovery from substance abuse and mental illness, the development of prosocial skills, and improving public safety through reducing future criminal behavior.  Although located at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, as the only specialty docket of its kind in Maine it accepts referrals from throughout the state.

Participants meet weekly with the judge and on multiple occasions each week with an assigned case manager, undergo frequent and random drug and alcohol testing, and attend intensive outpatient treatment.  If a higher level of care is needed, referrals are made to residential facilities.  Case managers assist participants in securing safe and affordable housing and accessing employment and educational opportunities.

The minimum duration of participation is one year with the average person completing in 18 to 23 months.  This is a rigorous experience with a proven record of success with many but not all individuals.  Those who do not comply with the expectations of this Court typically serve substantial jail or prison time after being expelled.  Those who succeed, however, are not incarcerated after graduation but are usually placed on probation.  To date, the rearrest rate of graduates is significantly lower than that for traditionally adjudicated defendants.

Where is the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court located? 

The Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.  This Court accepts cases from the District and Superior Courts and the Unified Criminal Dockets.

Why does Maine need a Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court?

This Court has two separate tracks:  one for civilians with co-occurring substance abuse disorders and mental illness and the other for military veterans with substance abuse disorders, mental illness, or co-occurring disorders.  Research has demonstrated that a high proportion of individuals involved with the criminal justice experience co-occurring disorders with consequences such as high suicide rates, poor functioning, homelessness, arrests, and incarceration. 

For military veterans, criminal conduct as well as behavioral disorders may be attributable to their service, particularly if they were exposed to traumatic circumstances such as combat.  The majority of these veterans have no history of criminal behavior or co-occurring disorders prior to their service.  There is increasing recognition that these factors must be taken into account when veterans become involved with the criminal justice system in order to achieve better outcomes than result from traditional adjudication and incarceration.

What is the mission of the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court?

It is the mission of the Maine Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court to support the recovery of defendants from drug and alcohol abuse and psychiatric disorders in order to reduce the risk of recidivism, enhance public safety, and improve the quality of life for defendants and their families through early, continuous, and intensive judicially supervised integrated treatment and other appropriate rehabilitation services.

What are the goals of the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court?

  • Reduce alcohol and drug abuse dependency among criminal defendants;
  • Reduce criminogenic risk while addressing related needs;
  • Enhance community safety by reducing criminal recidivism;
  • Reduce the severity of psychiatric symptoms;
  • Increase personal, familial and societal accountability of defendants;
  • Develop in offenders the necessary personal, familial and societal assets and skills to become productive citizens through, for example, employment, positive community activities, and healthy and safe family relationships;
  • Coordinate case processing and monitoring of participants in CODVC who have multiple contacts with the legal system, including cases involving child protection, domestic violence, and other related family cases;
  • Hold offenders accountable for crimes; and
  • Support the recovery of veterans from any era or type of service through the provision of services, the utilization of peer mentors, and close coordination with the Veterans Administration.

Who is eligible to apply for admission to the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court?

Adults age 18 years and older involved with the criminal justice system and with serious substance abuse problems and mental illness are eligible for this Court.  Because of the length and intensity of this Court, felony charges and other serious charges are considered as well as probation violations.  Participation is voluntary.

Application for admission may be made at any stage of the criminal proceedings including, but not limited to, arraignment, bail hearing, dispositional conference, probation revocation hearing, adjudicatory hearing, after plea of guilty, nolo contendere, or admission to probation violation.  However, application cannot be made after trial and a finding of guilt.

The defendant must voluntarily and knowingly consent to waive all rights of confidentiality established by federal and state laws associated with substance abuse diagnosis and treatment (42 CFR Part 2) and mental health diagnosis and treatment in order to facilitate judicial supervision and the sharing of information between treatment providers, the CODVC team and the Court.  Certain procedural rights are waived as well as identified in the bail contract.

The defendant must agree to pay restitution, child support and treatment co-payments.

Participants must agree to reside in Kennebec County in order to be supervised by case managers and law enforcement as well as to meet with their case manager, attend the Court every week, and to attend the treatment services affiliated with the Court.  If a participant has reliable transportation and the resources to attend all meetings, it may be possible to reside outside Kennebec County.  However, this is rare.

What steps are required to be admitted to the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court?

  • Referrals are accepted from any source, including the defendant or probationer, family, defense attorney, law enforcement, and prosecutor. 
  • Individuals seeking admission must work with their defense attorney to complete the necessary paperwork and to fully understand their legal rights and other options.
  • The CODVC Referral Form can be obtained from the court Clerk at 213-2800. 
  • Once completed, the form should be returned to the Clerk, who will inform the Court team.  The District Attorney's office will provide the team with information on the applicant's criminal history, the Court case manager will complete a screening, and a referral may be made by the case manager to a treatment provider for a clinical assessment.  This assessment is paid for by the State of Maine, MaineCare, other insurance, the Veterans Administration, or out of pocket depending on financial ability.
  • The Court team will review the application information and make a decision regarding admission.
  • If the team agrees to admit the applicant to the CODVC, the District Attorney's office in Kennebec County will contact defense counsel regarding a potential plea agreement (Note: defendants and counsel may reserve the right to present an open plea to the CODVC if a plea cannot be agreed upon.)
  • The Defendant goes before the CODVC judge for admission.
  • The defendant signs the plea agreement, waiver of certain rights, and bail/entry contract in open court and will sign a release form for waiver of confidential substance abuse treatment information to be shared with the Court team members.

What circumstances may disqualify an individual for admission?

Prior convictions or pending criminal charges for murder, elevated aggravated assault, kidnapping, or sexual assault are disqualifying offenses.

Individuals with certificates for medical marijuana are not eligible for admission. Individuals prescribed methadone or Suboxone/Subutex as opiate replacement therapies are not eligible.

The Court may exclude any defendant whom the Court deems to present a substantial danger to his/her victim or to the community, a substantial risk to the integrity of the judicial process, or a substantial risk, despite participation in the CODVC, of engaging in new criminal conduct.

If the Court team declines to admit an individual, a letter of explanation will be provided to the defense attorney.  The attorney may wish to request reconsideration.  This request should be made in writing to the Court Clerk and include a rationale as well as any additional information to assist the Court team in this process.

Veterans Track

A separate track for veterans was added to this docket in 2011 in recognition of the needs of veterans whose substance abuse and/or mental illness has contributed to criminal conduct.  Although veterans leaving their military service since 9/11 have justifiably received considerable attention, this Court accepts veterans from any era whether deployed to a combat theater such as Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan or not. 

The Court works closely with the Veterans Administration and Medical Center at Togus as well as Veterans Centers elsewhere in the state.  It accepts referrals from throughout the state as there are no other dockets of this type elsewhere. Veteran participants are expected to either reside in Kennebec County or have very reliable transportation and the flexibility to travel to Augusta on a near-daily basis.

Veterans Courts have proliferated in recent years due to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In Maine as is common elsewhere, each veteran participant has a peer mentor and engages in group activities with other veterans in recognition of the unique bonds that they share. Treatment services are accessed at the VA or through private providers.

The referral process is the same as described above.

What can a participant expect to receive for substance abuse and other treatment services while in the CODVC?

Treatment services include substance abuse and mental health counseling, treatment specific to co-occurring disorders, psychiatric medications, trauma treatment, anger management, and Batterers Intervention Groups.  The participant may not be able to choose which providers to see because of the importance of providers having specialized training and experience in working with the criminal justice system.  This determination is made by the Court team in collaboration with the participant. 

Treatment services are paid for by the State of Maine, MaineCare, other insurance, or out of pocket depending on the applicant's income.

Veterans most commonly receive services from the Veterans Administration Medical Center at Togus and/or local Veterans Services offices.  However, in some instances they may be authorized by the VA to receive services elsewhere if a particular service is not offered by the VA.  Veterans may also have private insurance with allows them to obtain services in the community.

What are the expectations of participants while in the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court?

This Court is very rigorous and can seem overwhelming at first but the vast majority of participants find that the expectations can be managed and will be of great benefit.  These expectations include but are not limited to:

  • Meeting with the Judge and the Court team every week along with other participants at the Courthouse to discuss progress.
  • Meeting weekly with the Court case manager for check-ins.
  • Veterans have a weekly group meeting with the veterans case manager as a group.
  • Providing urine samples for random and observed drug and alcohol testing no less than twice per week.
  • Attending treatment as recommended by the treatment provider; the most demanding portion of the treatment program will require six hours of group treatment per week for approximately five to six weeks.
  • Attendance at self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Taking all medication as prescribed.
  • Abstaining entirely from alcohol and drugs, unless prescribed, and, if prescribed, taking the medication as instructed.
  • Nightly curfews.
  • Avoiding people and places where alcohol is served or drugs are being used.
  • Work, attend an approved educational program, or perform community service.

As is clear from the expectations list above, participation in the Court requires a minimum of six to twelve hours per week.  Expectations are reduced as the participant progresses through the phases in the Court.

If there is an incident of serious noncompliance with expectations, an individual may be ordered by the Judge to serve up to seven days in jail without a hearing or more with a hearing.  If a participant is expelled from the Court, he or she will have to serve the sentence agreed upon at the time of admission.

If a participant provides information about his or her use of drugs or alcohol, the participant will not be charged with a crime nor expected to provide information as to where the substances were obtained. 

Additional important information can be found in the Veterans Court Handbook and the Entry/Bail Contract.

Who are the members of the Court team?

  • Judge
  • Case Managers
  • Treatment Providers
  • Probation Officer
  • Assistant District Attorney
  • Defense Attorney
  • Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator
  • Court clerk
  • Administrative personnel

For more information

Contact the Co-Occurring Disorders Court case manager at (207) 399-6281, the veterans case manager at (207) 485-4315, or the Coordinator of Specialty Dockets and Grants of the Administrative Office of the Courts at: specialtydockets@courts.maine.gov.