Hometown Heroes: Veterans Treatment Court grad ready for new life

  • Big Island Veterans Treatment Court graduate Keoni Barr discusses the program, telling mentors, court staff and others he is ready to be the person he knows he can be as Judge Wendy DeWeese listens on June 28. (Judiciary courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, West Hawaii Today is publishing a story about individuals, groups or organizations that have helped make life better for others in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Big Island Veterans Treatment Court recently celebrated the graduation of its client, Keoni Barr.

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“Keoni has proven to be an asset to this program, his family and his community. He is a shining example of what can be accomplished if we come together to help veterans, in a non-adversarial way,” said Big Island Veterans Treatment Court Judge Wendy DeWeese during the June 28 ceremony held at Keahuolu Courthouse in Kailua-Kona

Barr said he is ready to be the person he knows he can be after successfully completing the intensive court-monitored program. He told judges, court staff, family, and friends that he was struggling in life when he began the program, but thanks to their never-ending support, he got the confidence to get himself back on track.

Veterans Treatment Court began in the First Circuit (Honolulu) in 2013 and launched in the Third Circuit (Hawaii County) in 2014. The defendants selected to participate in Veterans Treatment Court have all served in the U.S. Armed Forces and have experienced difficulties acclimating back into society. Many have mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and the majority struggle with substance abuse as well.

The program utilizes a holistic approach, helping participants address addiction and mental health issues through extensive treatment and counseling. The defendants are also paired with volunteer veteran mentors, who have an understanding of the difficulties these men and women are facing and help support them through the process of recovery.

The program also assists them with finding housing and employment to regain the chance for a successful life. Many services are provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at no cost to the state.

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If you are a veteran and you are interested in volunteering to be a mentor, call (808) 443-2201 for more information.

Know a Hometown Hero who should be highlighted next Wednesday? It can be anybody, from a youngster doing good for the community, to a professional helping with the COVID-19 pandemic, or even a kupuna! Please send your nominations to cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com with the subject: Hometown Heroes Nomination. Please include the hero’s name, contact information and what makes them a hero.

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