Mental Health and Veterans Court

The mission of the Thurston County Mental Health and Veterans Court is to serve the community and increase public safety by monitoring, supporting and holding accountable justice-involved individuals with mental illness and to assist them in accessing treatment and improving their quality of life. We treat each participant with respect and dignity, empowering them to make positive changes in their life.

  Eligibility and Suitabilty

The Thurston County Mental Health and Veterans Courts are intensively supervised, comprehensive deferral programs designed to offer a therapeutic approach to individuals suffering from mental illness who are currently involved in the local criminal justice system. The courts are available to defendants who meet specfic eligibility criteria:

  • Qualifying criminal case filed in Thurston County, City of Lacey or City of Tumwater jurisdiction and not excluded by RCW 2.30
  • Qualifying mental health diagnosis
  • Low to medium objective risk assessment score
  • Nexus between diagnosis and criminal charge

Veterans Court is intended to serve veterans or active duty military personnel involved in the Thurston County criminal justice system. Additional factors considered for entry into Veterans Court are:

  • Connection between diagnosis and military service
  • Eligibility for VA Healthcare or ability to engage in military or community treatment services
  • Suitability for assignment to Veterans Court

Suitability elements are also considered:

  • Motivation to make lifestyle changes
  • Amenability to and ability to benefit from mental health treatment
  • Amenability to and ability to benefit from the intense supervision and structure of the program

  Program Goals

  • Improve public safety
  • Reduce recidivism
  • Increase communication between the criminal justice and mental health systems
  • Increase access to treatment and to community resources
  • Reduce criminal justice cost to the community by decreasing the number of jail bed days of the mentally ill offender population

  Referral Process

Anyone except for the defendants themselves can make an initial referral to MH/VC. This includes any judge, law enforcement officer, probation officer, pre-trial services officer, prosecutor, defense counsel, treatment provider or family member. The attorney of record and the case prosecutor will be notified of the informal referral prior to any futher processing of the case.


April 22, 2005 marked the first official hearing date of Thurston County Mental Health Court, a service of the Thurston County District Court. Graduates of MHC experience increased family connections, improvement in lifestyles, achieve a sense of dignity and self-worth, and empowerment to strive for future goal attainment.


Mental Health Court is held Thursdays at 2:00 pm
2nd and 4th Tuesdays at 4:00 pm


“A whole community working together towards justice.”
– Mental Health Court Graduate

  • The attorney of record completes and submits the MH/VC Referral Form via mail, email, fax or through the court.
  • The program manager meets with the defendant for an eligibility assessment.
  • The program manager collects pertinent records and determines if the defendant appears to meet the eligibility and suitability requirements.
  • The case is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team for entry into the program. This includes the MH/VC judge, assigned prosecuting and defense attorneys, clinical staff, and treatment liaisons.
  • If at any point in the process, the case prosecutor disagrees with the referral, or if the defendant is determined to be ineligible or unsuitable for entry to the program, the case proceeds no further in the process.
  • If accepted, the attorney of record and case prosecutor are advised and asked for final approval. Prior to entry, the legal outcome of successful completion of the program will be agreed upon.
  • The program manager will instruct the defendant to observe a full court calendar, ask them to submit to a urinalysis test, and introduce them to their assigned care coordinator. Once the urinalysis test results are returned negative, the defendant will be scheduled for an initial meeting with their care coordinator to go over and sign the appropriate program paperwork.
  • The defendant is encouraged to consult with their attorney of record to ensure they are making an informed decision.
  • If the case is a Superior Court case, the “down file” will need to occur prior to scheduling entry to the program.
  • The defendant is scheduled for entry. Upon entry date, the defendant signs the plea agreement and MH/VC contract. If the attorney of record is private counsel, they will need to attend that hearing and at that time may file a motion to withdraw.

  Program Participation

Thurston County Veterans Court is modeled after Mental Health Court. The inaugural hearing was held July 22, 2009.


Veterans Court is held Wednesdays at 4:00 pm


“Supporting those who have defended us.”
– Judge Brett Buckley

These elements are common to all participants:

  • Judicial Monitoring: The participant attends court weekly until such time that the clinical staff and the judge agree that a lengthier span of time between court appearances is appropriate. This decision is based on compliance, progress and attitude.
  • Intensive Therapeutic Case Management: The participant is required to attend frequent individual, in-person meetings with their assigned care coordinator, who functions as a cross between a probation counselor and a therapeutic case manager. The care coordinator monitors compliance of MH/VC contract obligations, treatment compliance and sobriety while providing support, connection to resources and holistic care coordination. The care coordinator reports to the court on the progress of the participant with comments and recommendations based upon program progress and compliance.
    • If a client is not compliant, the care coordinator files a violation report with the court. The participant should always meet with their assigned attorney prior to their violation report review hearing. The participant will always be given an opporutnity to speak and sanctioning will not be determined prior to their hearing.
  • Sobriety Monitoring: All participants are required to engage in sobriety monitoring as clincally indicated. This will take the form of forensic quality urinalysis testing, use of a blood alcohol device (BAMD, aka SCRAM) and portable breath tests. Hair and saliva testing are also available and may be used.
  • Access to Resources: Many community resources are available to help ensure participants have the ability to follow through with appointments, have access to medication, adequate housing and transportation, as well as other needed services.

  Graduation

Mental Health and Veterans Court programs are both twenty-four (24) months. Time may be extended to address violations, incomplete treatment or other un- or nearly-finished obligations. Graduation requires participants to be six months violation free and to complete a graduation plan to be presented in court. Graduation is an individualized celebration of the participant’s success and family and friends are encouraged to attend.

  Mental Health and Veterans Court Benefits

To the community:

  • Reduced costs to the community resulting from court and jail overcrowding
  • Reduced criminal activity within the community
  • Increased contribution to the community from program participants

To the participant:

  • Ongoing support in achieving goals
  • Increased stability
  • Reduced involvement in the criminal justice system
  • A sense of dignity and self-worth
  • Empowerment to strive for future goal attainment

  More Information

If you would like more information about the Thurston County Mental Health Court, please call the Mental Health and Veterans Court Program Manager at 360-867-2034 or email colemas@co.thurston.wa.us.