Lancaster County 'Mentor Court' Nationally Recognized

April 18, 2022, midnight ·

Lancaster County District Court has graduated 500 persons with drug addictions and 18 veterans from its problem solving court program. It’s one of the country’s few courtroom settings aimed at helping those who wind up there.

Mentor Court, as it's called, gives substance abusers and veterans a chance to heal in a five phase program. After graduating the program, charges drop from the person’s record.

Judge Andrew Jacobson works in the drug court and said it’s a rewarding personal experience to aid individuals seeking help.

“I get to know these people pretty well through staffing. And you know, they send an email to the court that lets me know what’s going on in their life,” Jacobson said, “and I learn about their families, their jobs, how their week goes, how their recovery is. So I get to know a lot more information about them than I do a regular person that might show up in my courtroom.”

Jacobson said the mentor court program is tailored to individuals who stole or committed other nonviolent crimes, to feed their addiction. The recovering addicts check-in with the court, and a mentor each week. Mentors and court officials help them through any problems they’re facing.

Mindy Milan-Groves, problem solving coordinator for the veterans treatment court, said mentors help veterans through PTSD and other mental health effects of combat.

“They volunteer their time, their energy to basically connect to our participants and stand alongside them, and support them through this journey,” Milan-Groves said, “and to ensure that they are in compliance with the courts and in compliance with supervision.”

The court team includes county attorneys, judges, and mentors who collaborate and track each person’s progress. Toward the later phases of the program, people get more freedom. This can also mean not having to attend court each week.

As a part of being one of the few recognized mentor courts in the country, the program in Lancaster County helps other courts trying out similar approaches.