Graduate: Veterans Treatment Court changed life

Duval County program has graduated 29 veterans who struggled with addiction

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Back on the right path, a local veteran who graduated from the Veterans Treatment Court program after battling drug addictions says the program gave him his life back.

Former Army Sgt. Darryl Woods, 31, served three tours overseas but his life took a turn, he said.

"I didn't want to admit that I had PTSD, so my way of handling it was to drink and try to feel numb and not think about things," Woods said.

In 2014, Woods was arrested for DUI and was discharged from the Army. But he said he got a second chance at life with the Veterans Treatment Court program. 

There are more than 220 Veterans Treatment Courts across the United States and more than 10,000 vets have completed the programs. The Duval County program started in 2012 and has graduated 29 veterans.

"The organizations, the treatment that's available in this courtroom supports them in restoring their lives," Melissa Fitzgerald said. "And there's an interdisciplinary court team, which includes the judge and the prosecutor, the defense and a representative from the VA, among others."

Fitzgerald, who played White House staffer Carol Fitzpatrick on seven seasons of "The West Wing," serves as the senior director of Justice for Vets, which supports programs like the Veterans Treatment Court.

Fitzgerald said the program is rigorous. The vets have to attend classes, therapy and complete a mentorship program.

"Watching our veterans who have served our country get their lives back, return to their communities healed and restored is inspiring," Fitzgerald said. 

Woods is Duval County's most recent graduate and also recently graduated from Everest University with a degree in business management. He said without the treatment program, he knows exactly where he would have ended up.

"In prison to be honest, because I was going downhill," Woods said. "I was just drinking and drinking all the time. Either that or I'd be dead, whichever came first. It's the truth."

Through the program Woods' DUI charge will be expunged and he will get to continue life with a clean slate.

"It feels great actually," Woods said. "I feel once again determined and focused, the way I used to be so many years ago."

Through success stories like Woods' more Veterans Treatment Court programs are being implemented in more cities across the nation.