US Rep. Virginia Foxx says that after conferring with Gov. Roy Cooper’s office and the US Justice Department, the federal funding for the Forsyth veterans court “is in the process of being restored.”
On July 18, six military veterans stepped forward to accept certifications of completion from Forsyth County District Judge David Sipprell. They were the first graduating class in a special court designed to divert veterans charged with criminal violations so they can receive treatment for PTSD, substance abuse, depression and other service-related challenges instead of going to jail.
Local and state officials ruefully acknowledged that the Forsyth County Veterans Treatment Court would be suspended because of an interruption in federal funding. Jemi Moore, the program coordinator, had previously disclosed to Triad City Beat that July 31 would be her last day on the job. Although veterans already enrolled in the court would continue to see Judge Sipprell, the program would not be accepting any new applicants. James Prosser, assistant secretary of veterans affairs for the state of North Carolina, pledged to do what he could to get funding restored.
The Governor’s Crime Commission, which funnels funding from a federal grant known as Byrne JAG to local specialty courts like the Forsyth veterans treatment court, disclosed to local media outlets that the “grant money was scheduled to be awarded Oct. 1, 2017 to the GCC and then the veterans treatment court, but it was held up by litigation and ultimately a nationwide injunction.
“The litigation and ultimately a nationwide injunction was due to the requirement that states comply with the new conditions added by the federal [Department of Justice],” said Margaret Ekam, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Crime Commission. “Those conditions included among others, matters related to sanctuary cities. While there are no sanctuary cities in North Carolina, we were impacted by the nationwide injunction, which in turn adversely affected the veterans treatment court.”
US Rep. Virginia Foxx indicated in a formal statement received by City Beat late Monday evening that the funding snag is getting resolved.
“After discussions with Gov. Cooper’s office and the US Department of Justice about the alleged funding cuts faced by the Forsyth County Veterans Court, it is my understanding that no cut has occurred and the suspended funding is in the process of being restored,” Foxx said. “The state of North Carolina is aware of and on track for its August 9 deadline to certify formal compliance with federal law, a necessary condition for receiving the Byrne JAG grant that funds the veterans court.”
Ekam said Wednesday that the Governor’s Crime Commission is aware of the deadline and working to meet it.
Foxx also said in her statement to City Beat: “Forsyth County will also need to certify compliance within 30 days, which will allow funding to be reinstated.”
Judge Sipprell and Moore, the program coordinator in Forsyth County, did not respond to multiple inquiries on Tuesday and Wednesday seeking clarification on the status of the local veterans court.
“It is unfortunate to see these minor administrative hang-ups delay the court’s great work serving our veterans and their families,” Foxx said. “I will continue to monitor this closely and will take any necessary action if additional delays arise that stand in the way of our veterans receiving the treatment they deserve.”
Winston-Salem City Council members DD Adams and Dan Besse both attended the veterans court graduation on July 18. Adams and Besse issued a statement two days after the graduation pledging to lobby their colleagues on city council to approve stop-gap funding to allow the program to continue.
“We were shocked to learn that the current dysfunction in Washington has threatened this outstanding program,” Adams and Besse said. “Diversion of people from standard prosecution routes into treatment and counseling is exactly the kind of approach we need to expand, and no one deserves this opportunity more than the men and women who have served our country. After hearing the moving stories of the graduates, and seeing the obvious effectiveness of this approach, we agreed that this program is worthy of stop-gap funding from the city to ensure that the first Forsyth graduation ceremony is not the last. We are reaching out to our colleagues on the city council and other local leaders. When federal or state leaders have forgotten how to cooperate, it’s time for local leaders to step up and ensure that the job gets done.”
Adams, a Democrat, is challenging Republican Virginia Foxx in the 5th Congressional District midterm election in November.
Nicholas Wright, a Vietnam combat veteran who graduated from the treatment court on July 18, said it would be a mistake to let the program fall by the wayside.
“I think that is a bad move because we really need this program,” he said. “There are so many veterans who who get caught up in the justice system. They have no way out other than going to jail. If you’re going to pull funding, you’re pulling the life out of veterans and putting veterans back in the same situation where I was when I almost went to jail.”