Mentors as Part of the Support Team -

An Example from San Diego's Verterans Treatment Review Calendar Pilot Program

An essential part of the San Diego Superior Court Veterans Treatment Review Calendar (VTRC) Pilot Program is the addition of volunteer mentors as part of the support team that encourages, guides and motivates participants to enter and complete timely and appropriate treatment for physical, psychological and substance abuse conditions stemming from their military service. We have carefully considered the experience of other Veterans Treatment Court programs around the country that have engaged veterans as volunteer mentors. These programs have credited their volunteer veteran mentors with contributing to more successful treatment outcomes for those veterans who have found their way into the criminal justice system and were referred to a court supervised treatment program.

Based on the evidence based experience of other programs, we believe volunteer mentors are a valuable component of the San Diego Superior Court’s Veterans Treatment Review Calendar Pilot Program.  We selected key volunteers with proven success in mentoring in our program to form the mentor staff.  These leaders provide direct administration, recruiting and training to the mentor cohort.  We believe that trained and committed volunteer mentors who develop active and supportive relationships with the VTRC participants will continue to increase the likelihood that the veterans will remain in treatment.  Longer treatment tenure has been shown to improve participants’ chances for a full and complete recovery that will restore them to health, reduce recidivism, and increase community safety. 

VTRC Pilot Program Veteran Mentor Role Description

The role of the VTRC Veteran Mentor is to act as a coach, guide, role model, advocate, and a support person for the individual veteran participant with whom he/she is working. Mentors understand the roles of other support team members and “fill the gap” to help keep the participant moving successfully toward completing the VTRC program. Additionally, the mentor will be a primary resource and referral provider to the participant by helping connect him/her with benefits, assistance and support services that are community based. These will help reduce the participant’s stress that can be caused by distractions like housing or family needs, VA benefits, educational assistance, civil legal services, California Veterans Benefits and the like.

The mentorship relationship is intended to encourage, guide, and support the veteran as he/she progresses through the court supervised treatment program. One of the most important skills the mentor will bring to the program is his/her ability to be a good listener. A very important role is for the mentor to listen to the concerns of the veteran and help that person access their needs. Mentors should avoid lecturing the participants by imposing their own values/beliefs, but should work to understand the mentee’s own values/beliefs and encourage the mentee to solve their own problems before they become destructive to their treatment program or probation compliance.

The mentor must be ready to offer suggestions and general guidance to the participants for any concerns they may have as they progress through the program, but it is not the mentor’s job to solve the problem for the participant. Rather, the mentor can help the participant identify resources that might be helpful and encourage the participant to do the “footwork” to get the help they need to solve their own life’s challenges.

The mentor must be available and ready to support the veteran when he/she may feel alone, frustrated or anxious in a way that only another veteran can appreciate and understand. In doing this, the mentor should maintain close contact with the VTRC Mentor Staff and keep leaders informed of significant issues the mentee may have that could derail his/her treatment program success.

Finally, the mentor should be protective of sensitive information given to him/her by the veteran or the VTRC Team, including the Mentor Staff, and not reveal any information except as may be required by the court unless in a situation where safety of the participant or another human being may be at risk. In those critical situations, the mentor must make emergency contacts to prevent harm.

All mentors shall be screened and approved by the VTRC Coordinator and will be expected to assist the VTRC Mentor Staff to cooperate fully with other members of the VTRC Collaborative team and the participant’s treatment provider.