GREAT FALLS — Painting murals in the Cascade County Veterans’ Treatment Court offices is just one form of community service for participants. In fact, some of the most meaningful therapy in the program comes in the form of community service and support programs that veterans take part in.
Veterans Measha Nyemaster and Omar Jaramillo are going to great lengths to make sure a mural featuring logos of the branches of the military looks as accurate as possible.
Measha is a the most recent graduate of the program, while Omar is a current participant in the voluntary program for veterans involved in the criminal justice system.
Measha struggled with alcohol. Now in recovery, the attention to detail serves as a welcome diversion.
“It brings you into a different part of your brain. So it does help, especially when things are kind of crazy in life,” said Nyemaster. “For me, this whole thing will be here for a long time after. It’ll be here for who knows how long.”
Veterans Treatment Court participants must be in the program for at least 12 to 14 months, depending on their crime's severity. During that time, they complete five milestones, which includes the community service and completion of what is called a relapse prevention program, another form of support.
“It helps relieve some of that anxiety, letting them know, reminding them constantly that we're here, we're not going anywhere,” said Veterans’ Treatment Court Case Manager Kathy Hankes. “If they need services, will quickly link them with services. They'll stay connected to their veterans that they were in the program with and the alumni group.”
Graduates of the program are strongly encouraged to stay in contact with the VTC team after graduation. They can serve as excellent ambassadors for the current participants.
“These men and women support each other in their recovery after graduation,” said Judge Elizabeth Best, who administers the program. “They also provide support for our participants during the program. So we encourage participants to go to these meetings. We have opportunities a couple of times a week for them to meet.”
During and after the program, participants can also choose from other support programs.
“We have the Sober Life,” said Hankes. “That's really great for them because it continues to allow them to really be a part of that recovery community, gives them something to do and shows them that they can have fun and be sober.”
“When you're getting sober, it's really hard to find circles of people,” said Nyemaster. “But in Sober Life it's not like that. And so really they just support your decision and you can bring your children. We went ice fishing and we went rafting down the river.”
For some veterans, community service extends beyond their graduation date.
U.S. Army veteran Henry Daychild Junior still leads a parenting group through the Alliance for Youth that he became involved in.
“It’s the Electric City Circle of Parenting,” said Daychild. “I got sent to a place to facilitate the group. So I've been facilitating that group. I think we're going into a year now.”
Measha says she won’t hang up her brush anytime soon.
“For me, I want to keep doing it for a while,” said Nyemaster. “Yeah, I'm still going to do some more work on it.”
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