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Cascade County Veterans’ Treatment Court celebrates new graduates

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Posted at 10:27 AM, May 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 12:27:55-04

GREAT FALLS — For those who have sacrificed for their country, the transition back to civilian life is not always easy. And for those who may be battling addiction, mental health issues and even trouble with the law, help is available in the form of Veterans’ Treatment Court.

Cascade County Veterans’ Treatment Court welcomes new graduates

May marks National Treatment Court month and on Tuesday, Cascade County District Court Judge Elizabeth Best honored the court’s newest graduates.

Suzanne McKethen wasn’t sure she’d see her graduation day from Veterans’ Treatment Court. The Air Force veteran and mother of four says she was in a dark place that included five years of being homeless.

But being invited to Veterans' Treatment Court a year and a half ago was a turning point.

“I don’t think I would even be alive without being in vet court this time,” said McKethen.

McKethen is one of the latest graduates of Cascade County Veterans’ Treatment Court.

Among friends, treatment court staff, mentors and congressional representatives, even her therapy dog, McKethen marked completion of the program.

"It’s kind of like basic training,” said McKethen. “They break you down before they build you back up. I like the fact that I always took it serious, that I knew that I needed to surrender. They make you look at yourself.”

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Since 2013, the court, a voluntary program for veterans involved in the criminal justice system, has been serving as an alternative to incarceration to people like Joshua Allen, an Army veteran.

“It's been good. I mean it's been amazing honestly,” said Allen.

Allen struggled with alcohol which led to problems with the law several years ago. He was somewhat skeptical of the program at first, but 14 months later, he has nothing but praise.

“I came into the program thinking that I didn’t need it that I didn't want it,” said Allen. “I felt that it was unnecessary. But as I went through and met with the counselors and the team and everybody, I kind of started to learn and realize that this is something that is good for people like me.”

Both Allen and McKethen say even though they have completed the requirements, they will continue to support others involved in the program.

“Between this program and Sober Life there’s been a lot of things I’ve been involved in and will continue to do so,” said Allen.

“I don’t think they’ll let me get away because they said I can’t move or change my phone number,” joked McKethen.