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General Information

We have included basic Manatee County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) Information that you will need to know in order to be successful while in the program. If you have any questions, please ask your primary case manager or other treatment court staff. It is also good to know that some rules and practices change from time to time. 

Veterans Court Hearings

Veterans Treatment Court Staff

Judge Honorable Deno Economou
Program Director Alfred James
Assistant Program Director June Schmidt
State’s Attorney Office Heather Doyle
Donna Spagnola
Public Defender’s Office Terry Drake
Probation & Parole Felicia Brown
Diane Adams
Medical Resident Dr. Luke Chiou
Lab Tech Tina Duell
Casey Dodge
Sr. Case Manager Monica Brown
Case Manager Deena Smith
Veterans Court Counselor  Andrew Penn
Mentor Coordinator (volunteer) William Carey
Team Leader Julie Stull
Drug Court Counselor Andrew Penn
Drug Court Counselor Amanda Thomas


Welcome to the Manatee County Veterans Treatment Courts. This handbook is designed to answer many questions you may have and to help guide you through the Veterans Treatment Court. The Veterans Treatment Court Staff understand that you may be somewhat unsure about your decision, but we are here to help you successfully reach your goal.

The Manatee County Veterans Treatment Court has been developed to help veterans who are in the criminal justice system address various issues associated with veterans and their return to the broader society.

You have been offered Veterans Treatment Court because you have been arrested and you have prior military service. Veterans Treatment Court can help veterans with substance abuse, mental health, and other issues which hinder the veteran’s ability to re-adjust to the broader society.

The purpose of Veterans Treatment Court is to provide judicial supervision while giving you an opportunity to receive treatment for many life issues that are specific to the veteran population. In essence, the Veterans Treatment Court programs are designed to help you obtain a crime free life while connecting you to the appropriate support services.

The purpose of this handbook is to provide you with an overview of the program, rules, goals, and expectations, if there is anything you do not understand or have questions about, do not be afraid to ask a Veterans Treatment Court.

As a Veterans Treatment Court participant, you will be expected to follow the instructions given by the Judge, and Treatment team.

Welcome to the Manatee County Veterans Treatment Court and we wish you all the best.


The Manatee County Veterans Treatment Court Program consists of a four (4) phase intervention program for veterans with substance abuse, mental health and other issues affecting your adjustment into civilian life. Your participation in the Veterans Treatment Court Program is completely voluntary, that being said, you will determine whether you are successful or not.

Each phase of the program is designed to help you confront and overcome various obstacles in your life. As you move up in phases, your program requirements will be less, but your personal requirements will increase. Throughout all phases two requirements remain constant, to be crime free and drug free, these are two non-negotiables in the program.

The Manatee County Veterans Treatment Court is designed to be completed in one (1) year but may take as much as two (2) years, however, special cases maybe completed in as little as 6 months. This may be due to a variety of issues associated with both a participant’s legal status, progress, and program. Program participants will be required to reach certain milestones in order to move from one phase to another, these requirements will be reviewed by you and your assigned primary case manager. Once you have reached certain milestones, it is important that you maintain these milestones so that you do not add time to your stay in the program.

Veterans Treatment Court is a hybrid or combination of judicial supervision and treatment. As a result, you will be required to report before the court on a regularly scheduled basis while also participating in treatment. It is important that you maintain contact with VTC staff in order to schedule all your appointments to include group treatment, AA/NA meetings, 1:1 treatment, urine testing, as well as court sessions. Completion of these responsibilities will result in you maintaining your freedom as well as your progression through the program.

How It Works

When you enter into Veterans Court, you will be assigned a primary counselor. Your primary counselor is your “go to” person. This is the person who will make recommendations to the Veterans Court Team in regards to your progress in the program. Your primary counselor will schedule individual one to one treatment sessions where you will discuss issues related to your substance abusing behavior. You will also be provided with a schedule of activities and requirements, it is you responsibility to plan and complete all required program activities. It is very important for you to call our office if you are having problems completing your requirements. This may not keep you from receiving a sanction, but your cooperation will be taken into consideration.

Drug testing is a key component of Veterans Court and you will be required to provide urine samples every Monday and then be required to call in the rest of the week to determine if your number has been called. If your number is called that day, you will be required to come in and provide a urine sample. Failure to report will be viewed as an unexcused drop and will be treated as a positive urine sample. Once again, if you have unforeseen problems, do not hesitate to call us to let us know. As previously stated, calling in does not relieve one of his or her duties, but it will be taken into consideration if any sanctions are given.

In addition to drug testing, substance abuse counseling is also a key component in the Veterans Court process. Groups are held at various times during the day in an effort to provide participants with opportunities to complete their requirements. It is your responsibility to find out which group best fits your schedule.

In addition to this, those who are in Phase II will become a part of the “B” Team, while those in Phases III and above will be placed on the “A” Team. The A and B teams are called up first during the court session and are allowed to leave prior to the end of the court session. Those who are first time “A” Team members will also receive a waiver of Veterans Treatment Court fees for that month. Participants who do not fulfill all scheduled program requirements may receive a sanction. Sanctions are specific to the infraction and individual and vary.


Veterans Treatment Court Terms & Activities

The following are terms commonly used by people in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Program (VTC). Some of you have never heard many of the terms or may recognize them in a different setting. The purpose of this section is to help you understand some of the words used and understand many of the required activities of the program. If you have any questions, please contact a VTC staff for clarification.

Case Management - Case Management is when a VTC works to make sure you get services you need besides group and individual sessions. Case management includes housing, employment, education, anger management, and other services which the VTC does not provide directly, but is understood to help you succeed not only in program, but in life. Our Case manager will work with you and other VTC staff and outside agencies in obtaining these services if available.

Confidentiality - Confidentiality means privacy and refers to not talking about program issues outside of the VTC setting. This means if you hear someone say something in a group setting about an issue they have, you cannot discuss this outside of the program. It simply means what happens in VTC program, stays in VTC program.

Counseling - Counseling occurs when you talk about your problems or issues related to your substance abusing behavior. Counseling may happen in group or one on one with your primary counselor. In each phase, you will be required to attend a certain amount of counseling groups and one on ones. Your primary Counselor is the person you are assigned to discuss issues with during your participation in the program, this person may be in-house or you may be assigned to someone from an outside agency.

Fees - Fees are the costs you pay to participate in the VTC. As a condition of this diversion program, each participant in VTC pays $15 per week to the Clerk of the Court to participate in the Manatee VTC. Payments are made to the Clerk of the Court, Located at 2000 Main St. (Old Historical Court House). You may need a photo ID and may pay in the form of check, cash, money order, or credit card. You are to turn in your receipt to the VTC by Friday of each week by 12:00pm. Participants may perform public service hours in lieu of payment at a rate of $10.00 an hour.

Groups - Groups are when two or more people meet with a counselor or therapist to discuss issues related to their substance abusing behavior. Issues may include family, career, education, free time, etc. In each phase, each participant is required to perform a certain amount of groups each week.

Nurse Practitioner - A Nurse Practitioner is a medical professional with an advanced nursing degree. The Nurse Practitioner is able to diagnose certain psychological disorders as well as provide medication to treat these disorders. The Nurse Practitioner may also refer the participant to a specialist in order to receive more specific treatment. All participants will be required to see the Nurse Practitioner.

Phases - Phases are the different levels a person goes through in the program. There are 4 phases in the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court. Each phase has certain things a person must do to move from one level to the next and finally graduate from the program. As you move up in phases, many of the requirements decrease.
Probation- Probation is a form of legal supervision where a person who has committed a crime is allowed to continue to live in the community while being supervised by an Officer of the Department of Corrections. While on probation there are certain restrictions placed upon the person which the officer will go over with you. If you break or violate any of these restrictions, you may be violated and placed in jail. Your Probation Officer (PO) will go over all requirements with you during your first visit with her or him.

Public Defender’s Office - The Public Defender’s Office (PD) provides legal representation to people who are unable to pay for a private lawyer. Many Veterans Treatment Court participants are represented by the PD’s Office. If you are unsure if you are represented by the PD’s Office, please discuss this issue with the VTC Judge in order to make sure you are represented legally.

Public Service - Public service is when you work at a local non-profit in order to complete certain program requirements. Public service may be used as a sanction and an incentive. As a sanction, it may be assigned due to not completing certain phase requirements or the failure to complete other phase requirements. As an incentive, it may be assigned to help a person pay their fees in the event of the loss of a job or inability to pay.

Recovery Meetings - Recovery meetings, also known as self-help or AA/NA meetings are held at various locations in the community. All Veterans Treatment Court participants are required to attend a minimum of 1 meeting weekly. You may choose the meeting which works best for you. This is also where you will find your sponsor for the program.

Relapse Group - Relapse group is a specialized group for Veterans Treatment Court Participants who have a positive urine test. Participants are required to attend relapse group(s) for positive urine tests whether or not he or she receives a jail sanction.

Sanctions - Sanctions are actions the Judge takes in relation to your progress or lack of progress in the Veterans Treatment Court Program. If a person tests positive on a urine test, the sanction may include public service, jail, or some other action the Judge orders. The idea is that a sanction is in response to your progress in the program.

Mentor - A mentor is someone who has had military service and is there to help you navigate through the program. The mentor is someone you can meet outside of the program to talk about life issues or to just connect with. Mentors are not counselors, their role is to be someone with whom you can connect and identify with in the event you want to talk with someone who may have been through what you are going through. Mentors must be the same sex of the mentee.

Veterans Services Coordinator (VSC) - The VSC is someone who can connect or direct you to appropriate veterans support organizations and mentors. Many of the people in these organizations are veterans themselves and understand many of the issues you are experiencing.


Program Specifics

Absences - In the event you are unable to attend any VTC function, it is your responsibility to call the VTC Office and speak with your primary case manager or some other VTC staff in the event your primary case manager is unavailable. In the event you are excused from any VTC activity to include court hearings, urine samples, groups, or meetings, you will be required to provide documentation to verify your circumstances.

Attire - It is important to dress appropriately when attending VTC functions such as court hearings, groups, and one on one counseling sessions. No clothing advertising drugs, alcohol, or sex may be worn to the VTC office and is prohibited when attending court sessions. Dress is to be moderate. This means clothing is not to be excessively tight or form fitting. Shorts, skirts, and dresses are not to be excessively short so as to be distractive. VTC staff has the right to turn you away if your attire does not meet the appropriate standards.

Behavior - VTC participants are expected to monitor their behavior both in and out of the program. While at the VTC Office or during court hearings, participants are expected to be considerate of the Judge, the VTC staff, as well as other VTC participants. Behavior that may be perceived as threatening or disrespectful will not be tolerated. A failure to keep one’s behavior appropriate may result in a sanction from the Judge to include termination.

Electronics - Electronics such as cell phones, Ipods, mp3 players must be turned off in both court proceedings and groups. Headphones are not allowed in either activity.

Food and Drinks - You are not allowed to eat, drink or chew gum while in Court or the group room. Please dispose of these items before you enter the Offices or Courtroom.

Holidays - The VTC Office is closed on certain holidays; you will be notified in advance of these holidays and are excused from all VTC activities during those times.

Visitors - Visitors are not allowed to enter the VTC Office areas. A visitor may sit in the waiting area until you have completed your business here. You may bring visitors to court with you, but all visitors are subject to the same rules as VTC Participants.

Parking - The Manatee County VTC provides free parking. Free parking is available in the attached parking garage or behind the building. If you park in the garage, the office will validate your stamp.

Punctuality - It is the responsibility of all VTC participants to be on time for all VTC activities. If you know you will be late, please call the VTC Office to notify staff.


Medication & Other Substances

Some of the information on this page is found in other sections of this handbook, but this information is so important, we want you to be able to quickly access it so that you will know what to do in the event you are prescribed or use certain valid medications.

It is important that you tell us when you are prescribed any medications by your doctor or when you are taking any over the counter medication. Following this rule helps us to gauge your willingness to receive treatment and will also help us not to assign a positive to a urine sample that you submit.

Illegal drugs are not permitted and are not to be taken by any VTC participant. This includes drugs such as cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs that are not yours, marijuana, etc.

Alcohol, while legal, is not allowed to be consumed by VTC participants. Use of alcohol violates VTC program rules and you will be sanctioned for its use.

Psychiatric medications are allowed, but you must see our contracted Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) to ensure you are taking your medication properly. The ARNP will be able to answer any questions you have about your medications and possible side effects and may also be able to offer a more affordable alternative.

Other prescription medications such blood pressure medication, antibiotics and such are allowed, but once again, it is important that you provide us with a copy of your most recent prescription so that we are aware that you are taking these medications as they have been prescribed to you.

Over the counter medications are allowed, but the rules are the same for these medications as with other types of medications. It should also be noted, the use of over the counter medications are for short-term use not long-term. If you have persistent symptoms, we recommend you see a doctor or the ARNP for a more complete diagnosis.

Supplements such as vitamins, herbs, and minerals are allowed, but as with medications, should be taken with caution. Many supplements may have side effects when taken with prescribed medications. Please let the lab personnel know that you are taking certain supplement.

Graduation and Prescribed Narcotics: VTC participants shall not be allowed to graduate while on narcotics. While the VTC recognizes there are times when a physician may prescribe narcotics to their patients, the goal of the VTC is to help you learn how to function without dependence upon drugs and alcohol. In light of this philosophy, if you receive a prescription for narcotic medication within 90 days of your graduation, you must have at least 30 days of clean time prior to graduating from the VTC. The risk for abuse of narcotics is too great of a risk for the program to allow you to leave while utilizing these medications. It is imperative that you request a non-narcotic alternative when you visit your doctor.


Phase Requirements

A. Phase I: Orientation-Minimum of 30 days

  • Attend Veterans Treatment Court appearances as determined by the Court.
  • 3 therapy groups per week
  • 1 scheduled individual therapy session per week
  • Case Management Assessments
  • Random Urinalysis, everyone reports on Monday or Tuesday after a holiday
  • *Attend 4 12-step meetings per week. (NA/AA)

B. Phase II: Engagement-Minimum of 90 days

  • Attend Veterans Treatment Court sessions as determined by the Court 
  • Attend 2 therapy groups per week
  • Random Urinalysis, everyone reports on Monday or Tuesday after a holiday
  • *Attend 1 scheduled individual counseling session with counselor bi-weekly
  • Attend 4 12-step meetings per week.
  • Keep payments current          
  • Attend weekly scheduled case management meetings as recommended.
  • Meet with Veterans Services Coordinator
  • *Connect with mentor/sponsor- verified by Veterans Services Coordinator    
  • Must be employed, in school or combination of both
  • Participation in service work in the 12 step community
  • 30 days clean prior to moving to next phase
  • Maintain daily journal of thoughts and feelings
  • Complete Step 2, share with counselor/group or Change preparation stage
  • Complete list of relapse warning signs and their preventions and share
  • Write a good-bye letter to your drug of choice and share.

C. Phase III: Maintenance-Minimum 180 days

  • Attend Veterans Treatment Court sessions as determined by the Court
  • Attend 1 group therapy session per week
  • Random Urinalysis, everyone reports on Monday or Tuesday after a holiday
  • Attend 1 scheduled individual counseling session with counselor per month
  • *Attend 4 12-step meetings per week
  • Keep payments current
  • Attend weekly scheduled case management meetings as recommended
  • *Mentor verified by Veterans Services Coordinator
  • Participation in service work in the 12 step community
  • 60 days clean prior to moving into Pre-Grad
  • Obtain Driver’s License, unless excused by the Court
  • Pay restitution if owed
  • Keep daily journal of your thoughts and feelings
  • Develop budget plan with your counselor
  • Complete Step 3 and share with counselor/group or Stages of Change
  • Write report in regards to working Steps 4&5 with our sponsor and share

D. Phase IV- Pre-Graduation-Minimum 60 days

  • Attend Veterans Treatment Court sessions as determined by the Court
  • Attend 1 therapy group per month
  • Random Urinalysis, everyone reports on Monday or Tuesday after a holiday
  • Attend 1 scheduled individual counseling session per month or PRN
  • *Attend 4-12 Step meetings per week
  • Participate in service work with sponsor
  • Attend weekly scheduled case management meetings as recommended
  • *Mentor verified by Veterans Services Coordinator
  • Keep payments current
  • Maintain employment or school
  • Pay all restitution/Court costs
  • Prepare and aftercare plan
  • Must have 90 days clean to graduate
  • Must share life story with group

Cannot graduate while using any narcotic medications prescribed or not!

* If it is verified that you do not have a substance abuse problem, you do not have to attend 12 step NA/AA meetings or a sponsor, however all veterans will have to have a mentor.


Program Rules & Regulations

The following rules and regulations will apply to all persons involved in the Manatee and Manatee County Veterans Treatment Court Programs:

  1. Use and/or possession of alcohol, drugs or paraphernalia on County or treatment program property may result in dismissal from tins program.
  2. Prescription and/or non-prescription drugs, or any type “over the counter” medication are not allowed on the premises without prior permission from program staff. It is the Clients responsibility to notify the counselors and the Lab Technician of any and all medications the Client may be taking, whether prescription or not. All non-prescription medications must be cleared through the counselors, and a record put into the Clients file prior to consumption.
  3. Possession of weapons, knives, glass items, aerosol cans, sharp objects, or any other contraband that may cause injury to clients or others is prohibited on County or Treatment Court program property and may result in dismissal.
  4. Clients are responsible for all personal belongings at all times.
  5. Clients must PERSONALLY contact program staff prior to being late or absent from any VTC activity. Failure to PERSONALLY contact program staff will be considered a "NO SHOW". "NO SHOW'S" are considered "POSITIVE DRUG SCREENS" a.k.a ."POSITIVE DROP".
  6. Chronic absences or tardiness may result in sanctions or dismissal from the program.
  7. No Client phone calls will be made from Veterans Treatment Court Office. Calls can be made from the phone in the lobby or the payphone in the Plaza.
  8. Clients are not allowed to leave groups, Veterans Treatment Court hearings or other program activities before scheduled dismissal, except in case of emergency, without prior approval. Clients on A & B Teams may leave Veterans Treatment Court hearings early (when dismissed) as a privilege.
  9. Appropriate dress is required at all times. Revealing attire, caps and sunglasses will not be worn during program activities or Veterans Treatment Court hearings. Clothing promoting the use of alcohol or drugs is not allowed. Jackets, purses, and other non-essential personal items will not be allowed into the "Drop" areas. Clients may want to leave all valuables at home or in their cars, rather than leaving these items unsupervised.Veterans Treatment Court staff will not be held responsible for any lost, stolen, or misplaced items.
  10. Smoking and consumption of food, drink or chewing gum will not be allowed while participating in program activities, in group-rooms or attending Court hearings. There is absolutely no food, drink or chewing gum permitted in the Courtroom.
  11. Beepers, cell phones, mp3 players, i-pods, headsets, or CD players are not to be used on the court or program premises. Turn cell phones and pagers off or set to vibrate during Veterans Treatment Court Hearings, and group therapy.
  12. Clients are responsible for adequate cleanup of program and court areas before departure.
  13. Visitors/guests will not be allowed to attend scheduled program activities with the Client unless the activity is specialized for family or "significant other." However, Clients are encouraged to bring adult family members or "significant other" to attend Veterans Treatment Court Hearings.
  14. Childcare is the responsibility of the Client. Children may not attend any program activity. You are not to leave your children unattended in the lobby of the Veterans Treatment Court office. If there is a special need let your counselor know, and arrangements may be made.
  15. Clients are expected to treat their peers and staff members with respect. Comments referring to race, color, creed, religion, etc., in a negative or demeaning manner, will not be tolerated. Profanity and vulgar language is prohibited.
  16. Clients will not be permitted to loiter in their cars, on program or court property, or outside therapy rooms before, during, or after program activities. Clients are expected to arrive promptly and be prepared with necessary materials to participate fully in all activities. Upon arrival, the Client must sign in for all appointments, such as one on ones and group and Urine Drops. Failure to do this may result in a "No Show", which is considered a Positive Drug Screen result. All Clients, waiting to drop or see counselors, should check in with the receptionist and wait in the lobby area until directed to go back. Clients should not go back to drop or see a counselor until asked to do so.
  17. Clients are expected to keep agreed upon fees current as documented in any or all program court agreements. These fees are usually payable to the Clerk of Court and due on a weekly basis. The receipts for these payments should be given to a counselor or filed at the VTC Office, on a weekly basis, no later than the designated time and day of any given week. These receipts will not be accepted if they are handed to a counselor in court as a means to prove payment.
  18. Clients are required to attend a specific number of outside meetings per week, NA, AA, CA, etc., and keep appropriate documentation showing dates, times, topic, and where the meeting was held. Each meeting must be signed off or confirmed by the person running the meeting. This documentation, like fee payment receipts, are to be filed or given to a counselor no later than the designated time and day, on any given week. Falsification of meetings will result in a sanction by the court.
  19. A bulletin board will be provided in the lobby area for a copy of all information and schedule changes.
  20. No client may take Narcotic medication, this includes prescriptions. If you have special
    circumstances your medication must be approved by the Director.
  21. You must inform and provide the Lab Technician of ANY medication you are taking.
  22. Please note that if you are arrested and any new charges are filed by the State Attorney's Office, you will face possible termination from the VTC Program.

Clients are responsible for:

  • Specific U/A Rules & Procedures,


Urinalysis Rules and Regulations

  1. You will be required to provide urine samples multiple times during the week to include the weekends. You will be assigned a number and you will need to call daily to determine if your number is chosen for urine testing for that day. 941-861-8189
  2. It is your responsibility to arrive on time to provide a urine sample for testing on the day your number is chosen. If an emergency arises, you are responsible to call this office in order to make other arrangements. Only your counselor or the Program Director can excuse you, you need to start with your counselor first. If your counselor is not available, then you shall speak to the Program Director to be excused or allowed to provide a sample later.
  3. When arriving to provide a urine sample, you are to notify staff in the lab. You are not to enter the bathroom prior to a staff member assisting you. If the lab door is closed, remain in the lobby seating area and someone will assist you upon their return.
  4. Prior to providing your sample, you shall be provided with a cup. It is your responsibility to check the cup to ensure your name, ID number, and proper date is on the cup. Once this information is verified, you will initial the label to indicate you have checked the label.
  5. When entering the appropriate bathroom (male/female) to provide a urine sample, you are not to take anything into the bathroom besides basic clothing. There are to be no coats, purses, or bulky clothing items taken into the bathroom.
  6. All urine samples will be monitored by staff. You are to stand or sit in a manner in which staff can clearly observe the sample entering the specimen cup.
  7. Once you arrive to provide a urine sample, you are not to leave until you have provided a valid sample. Failure to remain until you have provided a valid sample may result in you receiving a “Positive” urine screen.
  8. If the court thinks you are falsifying your urine samples or tampering with another participant’s sample, you may be subject to a severe sanction or termination from the program.
  9. It is your responsibility to notify the lab tech of any medications you have been prescribed prior to you providing a urine sample, failure to do so may result in a sanction due to the outcome of the test.

Words to the Wise

Please review this packet from time to time, it can help you progress through the program and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact a staff member to answer any of your questions. You must also remember, the program changes from time to time, so this is a guide to help you understand the basics of the program. Some things never change such as making sure you complete all program requirements and testing negative on your urine samples.

The staff of the Manatee County Veterans Treatment Court wishes you much success during your time in Veterans Treatment Court and in your life. It is our hope that you will use Veterans Treatment Court as an opportunity to truly turn your life around and not simply go through the motions to get charges dismissed. While that is your right, the fact that you are in a Court Intervention Program suggests that you may have some serious issues to confront in your life and that is why Veterans Treatment Court exists, to help you overcome your life struggles and return to society as one who is making a contribution and not as one who causes harm self or others

Veterans Court Hearings

Main Office
  •  Phone: (941) 749-3670
Office Hours
  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday
    7:00 am to 6:00 pm*
  • Tuesday**, Thursday***
    7:00 am to 7:00 pm

*Must be here by 5:00 pm to participate in final group.
**Must be here by 6:00 pm to participate in final group.
***Must be here by 5:30 pm to participate in final group.

Urinalysis Drop
  •  Phone: (941) 749-3666
Drop Hours
  • Monday - Friday
    7:00 am to 5:00 pm
    (must arrive at DC office by 4:30 pm)
  • Saturday - Sunday
    7:30 am to 8:30 am
    (must arrive at DC office by 8:45 am)