Saratoga Springs council supports creating veterans treatment court


SARATOGA SPRINGS – A former colonel is pushing to have a Veterans Treatment Court established in Saratoga County.

It’s a concept the Saratoga Springs City Council voted unanimously to endorse at its meeting Tuesday evening. 

During the meeting former Colonel David Cummings presented the idea to the board, noting the whole concept was about getting veterans treatment. 

“The Veterans Treatment Court lets somebody who commits a felony come in, plead guilty and then it’s a four part growth program of learning how to manage their lives with support systems around them and if they successfully pass the program they get that felony either dismissed or broken down to a misdemeanor,” he said. 

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Neither murder or sexual offense charges would be qualified offenses for the specialized court, Cummings said.

Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montaginino said he fully supports the creation of specialized courts, having seen how they operate after having worked 26 years as a principal attorney within the unified court system. 

“The specialized courts do a phenomenal job providing support to the people who need them,” he said.

Saratoga County Director of Public Relations Christine Rush said the county Board of Supervisors hasn’t been presented with the idea, “but the County has long-been committed to supporting our veterans and their families through a variety of programs and services.”

Problem-solving courts, such as a Veterans Treatment Court are under the oversight of the state Office of Court Administration, said Lucian Chalfen, the Court Administration spokesperson. 

He said the 4th Judicial District, which covers Saratoga County, only has one Veterans Treatment Court in Essex County. There are 34 of these types of courts across the state. 

“We are in the process of developing more VTC’s to make sure that every veteran living in New York State has access to a VTC in either their county or an adjacent county,” he said.

Chalfen also said sections of Criminal Procedure Law allows for qualifying cases from counties that don’t currently have a Veterans Treatment Court to be transferred to a Veterans Treatment Court in an adjacent county, Chalfen said. 

Chalfen said to create such a court there would need to be a stakeholder group consisting of court staff, the prosecutor, defense and veterans’ groups, which would figure out what the policies and procedures would be for the court.

Cummings said he spoke to Saratoga District Attorney Karen Heggen and the 4th Judicial District about the idea. 

“She said it was not needed,” Cummings said about Heggen.

Heggen said she’s spoken to officials in the 4th Judicial District who have indicated they don’t have enough veterans going through the system to warrant a specialized court. She also said for the last five years she’s pushed to create a Veterans Treatment Court.

Because there isn’t a court established in the county, Heggen said they still try to provide additional resources to veterans that come through the county’s drug treatment program, which was established in 2003.

“The person I assign to our Saratoga County treatment program is in fact a veteran herself, so she is keenly aware and has worked very diligently to ensure that when there has been unique needs for people in treatment court who have also been veterans that we have gone the extra step to assist them and connect them with additional services that a veterans treatment court would provide,” she said.

There are around 18,000 veterans in Saratoga County, Cummings said. 


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