On February 28, 2017, more than 100 people filled the Jury Assembly Room at the St. Lucie County Courthouse in Fort Pierce for the second night of the Your Courts Up Close program. The topics for the evening were all about the Specialty Courts in the 19th Judicial Circuit – Drug Court, Mental Health Court, and Veterans Court. The Judges who preside over those Specialty Courts in St. Lucie County provided the presentations, and many of the people who assist with these courts, including Assistant State Attorneys, Public Defenders, case managers, counselors, and law enforcement, among others, joined them. The presentations showed that the team approach helps the Specialty Court participants to succeed.
Circuit Judge Steven Levin presented an overview of Juvenile and Adult Drug Courts. Most of the drug court team attended and they conducted a “mock staffing,” showing how the entire team monitors many aspects of a Drug Court participant’s life through drug testing, counseling, and contact with employers and schools.
Circuit Judge Cynthia Cox and the Mental Health Court team provided the next presentation. Through a similar team approach as mentioned above, Mental Health Court strives to get participants the services they need, including counseling, proper medication, housing, and benefits so that they can succeed in the program.
Circuit Judge Robert Belanger, along with the Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist for the 19th Judicial Circuit, provided the final presentation of the night about Veterans Court. Judge Belanger, a veteran himself, began by asking how many attending the presentation are veterans. Many in the crowd raised their hands. He explained the purpose of Veterans Court, and how, much like with the other Specialty Courts, they assist with getting the participants assistance that they need. He also noted that all of the participants in Veterans Court are eligible for Veterans’ benefits, which means that all of the participants had an honorable discharge from the military. Upon the conclusion of this presentation, Judges Levin, Cox, and Belanger answered questions from those in attendance.
St. Lucie County Judge Daryl Isenhower, who developed Your Courts Up Close, was the host for the program and facilitated the question and answer periods throughout the evening. The next Your Courts Up Close event will be Tuesday, March 7, 2017 and will focus on family court and the appellate court.