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Belmont County working to start a veterans court

Belmont County is working to start a veterans court this year.

Belmont County is working to start a veterans court this year.

The county has many veterans who sometimes need a helping hand, and such a program would give them just that.

"A veterans court is a specific, statutorily-authorized court monitored by the Ohio Supreme Court, very, very similar to the drug court," Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato said.

Fregiato says to be eligible, a veteran’s crime would have to be non-violent, such as a fourth- or fifth-degree felony.

"It has to be related in some way, directly or indirectly, to his or her military experience. That individual, after pleading guilty or being convicted, he or she goes into the veterans court," Fregiato said.

He adds that it would be an intensive program, and after completion, the crime would be expunged.

“This interview is quite telling in terms of the timing, because about two hours ago, I spoke with Justice (Sharon) Kennedy of the Ohio Supreme Court, and she and I are working very closely to achieve these goals in Belmont County," Fregiato said.

Cindy Maupin with the Belmont County Veterans Service Office thinks it's a great idea.

"Veterans come back with some unique disabilities and sometimes they can lead to behavior problems, and I think it will benefit them to go to counseling or rehabilitation that would be offered through this court," she said.

Fregiato says the program would serve veterans in Belmont and Guernsey counties. Each veteran would receive a mentor.

"It's a concept I’m very excited about,” Fregiato said. “If it works well in the veterans court, I may very well adopt it in the drug court program, too."

Fregiato hopes the veterans court will begin this year. If so, they will be looking for mentors.

If you are interested in volunteering, you can contact the Belmont County Veterans Service Office in Bellaire at (740) 325-1042.

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