At Great Falls Treatment Court Ceremony, Tester Celebrates Native American Veteran Graduates

Senator secured $300,000 to expand Veterans Treatment Court in Cascade County and provide critical support to Tribal veterans in need

U.S. Senator Jon Tester joined community members, treatment court staff, and Indian Family Health Clinic representatives to honor a class of Native Veterans at a Great Falls Veterans Treatment Court ceremony today.

“Veterans Treatment Courts in Montana play a critical role in connecting veterans with the specialized assistance they need to smoothly transition back to civilian life,” said Tester. “That’s why I fought to secure funding for this program—which expands our reach to Native Veterans in the community and helps folks get back on their feet with access to affordable housing, job training, and mental health care. This class should feel very proud they’ve reached this milestone, and I’m looking forward to continuing my work with all of you to help get our veterans the support they deserve.”

“Through the tireless efforts of Senator Tester and this Veterans Treatment Court, we’re able to ensure that our Native American Veterans receive those benefits that they’ve earned and that they need,” said Great Falls District Judge Gregory Pinski at the ceremony.

Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and former Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has been a longtime supporter of the Great Falls Veterans Treatment Court. Veterans Treatment Courts remove veterans from the regular criminal justice process to address issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. A judge works alongside a Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist to establish a structured rehabilitation program tailored to the specific needs of each veteran. These efforts have proven to drastically reduce recidivism rates in veterans, while providing services that help veterans heal from the invisible wounds of war.

For years, Tester has delivered millions in federal funding for Montana’s treatment court programs. In September 2018, President Trump signed Tester’s Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act into law, allowing for the hiring of 50 additional Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists across the nation to work with Veterans Treatment Courts and help provide timely access to VA services. Last July, Tester helped secure a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance to help expand the existing Veterans Treatment Court, assist program participants, and reach more Native American Veterans in the community.

The partnership between Judge Pinski’s Court and the Great Falls Indian Family Health Clinic has been instrumental in combatting substance abuse and strengthening treatment initiatives among veterans. Their efforts have previously graduated five American Indians from the general Drug Treatment Court program.

The outreach program was created by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide veterans with timely access to services and engage veterans in specialty treatment courts. There are currently three Veterans Treatment Courts in Montana, located in Billings, Missoula and Great Falls.