HISTORY OF THE TAMPA, FL VTC AND MENTOR CORPS
SETTING THE STANDARD
On 14 September 2013: Colonel Reyes met with Hon. Richard Weis and discussed the plan for formally establishing the 13th Judicial Circuit's Veterans Treatment Court (VTC). Judge Weis noted that there was no allocated budget, no additional staff, and no existing veteran mentors to begin the Program. Additionally, the authorizing document, the Judicial Administrative Order, was in staffing but not yet signed and in effect.
1 October 2013: the first Judicial Administrative Order was signed and formally authorized the establishment of the 13th Judicial Circuit's Veterans Treatment Court. The program started initially with 6 Veterans and one Mentor.
1 February 2015: the Second Judicial Administrative Order was signed and in effect. Hon. Gregory P. Holder assumed VTC Judge responsibilities from Judge Weis. The program increased to 19 Veterans and 11 Mentors.
1 January 2017: the Third Judicial Administrative Order was signed and in effect. Hon. Michael J. Scionti assumed VTC Judge responsibilities from Judge Holder. The program increased to 99 Veterans and 61 Mentors. A budget plan was submitted and a judicial staff position was created on the VTC team.
As of June 2019, the program peaked to nearly 250 Veterans, and a total of over 140 Mentors (with over 61 Mentors actively providing support and the remaining Mentors who previously supported the Program but who are in inactive or expired status). There is an established budget and a small judicial support staff. Finally, a senior level mentor council and 501c3 were established to best deal with the myriad of veteran support issues in the VTC.
The senior-level mentors established the Mentors for Hillsborough County Veterans (MHCV), a 501c3 whose primary purpose is to 'fill the gap' on many veteran requirements and needs often unavailable by the Court, the local government or local community services. The secondary purpose is to serve as a platform of support, advocacy, and
training to further efforts in a) building, maintaining and sustaining a viable, credible, and continuous force of veteran mentors, and community network providers, b) sharing best business practices with other FL and non-FL VTC programs, and c) promoting VTC legislation at the local, state and federal government levels.
October 2016 meeting with Hon. Bob McDonald (US Secretary of Veterans Affairs - pictured)
The Tampa VTC Volunteer Veteran Mentor Program and the 501c3 were established and continue to be led by its Program Coordinator, Colonel DJ Reyes (US Army retired) since its inception in October 2013.