LIHUE — Shey Furgeson, 32, facing five counts of promotion of a dangerous drug, theft and burgulary charges, became the first veteran to be inducted into the Kauai Veterans Treatment Court Wednesday morning.
“I’m struggling to find the right word,” said Judge Randal Valenciano of the Fifth Circuit Court. “We’re not the first (to have the Veterans Treatment Court), and I guess the word is ‘relieved,’ because I put a lot of pressure on the administrative staff to get this program going on Kauai.”
Veterans accepted for the Veterans Treatment Court are those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse.
Furgeson, a veteran of the United States Air Force, has two deployments to Iraq under his belt before getting into trouble with the law.
“The Fifth Circuit Court hopes that this opens the door to more veterans coming to court to take advantage of these services,” Valenciano said. “We want the program to expand, to recognize the sacrifice, and to acknowledge the service of all people in the military.”
Under the program, veterans are intensely supervised and required to make regular court appearances as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions. They also are subject to frequent and random testing for substance abuse.
“Mr. Furgeson is already on his way,” said Craig DeCosta, Furgeson’s attorney. “He is getting some of these services through Veterans Affairs.”
During his journey through the Veterans Treatment Court, Valenciano said all of his charges will be continued and delayed until the outcome of the court program.
The resources and treatment services are designed to help the veterans get healthy, find jobs, and return to being law-abiding citizens.
Furgeson is also paired with Evan Price, a U.S. Navy veteran volunteer mentor, to support him through the recovery process.
“We tell them that it is a worthwhile process to go through,” Price said. “Sometimes, you need to go back a step to make two, forward. But in the end, it is worth it, and there are people who believe in you.”
Valenciano also tasked Price with recruiting more mentors.
Ed Kawamura, commandant for the Kauai Veterans Council, said the Veterans Treatment Court was a long time in coming. Veterans Courts are responses to the growing trend of veterans appearing before the courts to face charges stemming from substance abuse or mental health concerns.
Many veterans are entitled to treatment through the Veterans Administration, and Veterans Courts, and their mentors, are the connection with these benefits.
“The goal is to give them the best chance at rehabilitation,” Valenciano said.
The Kauai Veterans Treatment Court operates along with the Kauai Drug Court with Martin Steinhaus as its director.