Butler County creating new Veterans Treatment Court

Published: Saturday, November 26, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

The Butler County Common Pleas Court is about to expand its specialty dockets to include a new Veterans Treatment Court.

The emphasis on the court will be treatment and diversion, according to officials, and will connect veterans with services and a military support network that they may have lost when they returned to civilian life.

Butler County Common Please Court Judge Michael Oster Jr. has visited other local Veterans Treatment Courts, or VTCs, and said they are designed to break down barriers such as unemployment or under employment, homelessness, drug problems and other issues that may have contributed to veterans ending up on the wrong side of the law.

“We really want to make that camaraderie of bringing them together and not only the court holding them accountable, but themselves,” he said. “These are men and women who are disciplined … we want to add that (camaraderie) as well to really make them successful.”

The municipal judges in Hamilton and Middletown have been operating VTCs for several years.

Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark Wall has been keeping statistics on his VTC since its inception in 2011 and those numbers show a 78 percent success rate overall, he said.

By far the biggest misdemeanor crime veterans committed was drunk driving (38 percent), he said. Domestic incidents involving substance abuse came in second with 34 cases, and there were 17 drug cases.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said the VTCs have had a great deal of success. The recidivism rate is what is key in any court case, and she said the VTCs appear to have that issue in check.

“The long term effect is what is important, where are they a year later, where are they two years later, is there a rate of recidivism…,” O’Connor said. “My understanding is the veterans courts have the lowest rate of recidivism amongst their population. I think it is a very worthwhile endeavor.”

The chief justice also told the Journal-News that veterans courts have produced not only veterans who don’t offend again, but people whose problems have been solved through all the various services they have received under the court’s supervision.

“By the time they get out they’ve got a high level of employment amongst their ranks, a stable living situation which they didn’t have, chances are when they came in there. Chances are they weren’t employed or they were marginally employed,” O’Connor said. “They have other indicators of stability.”

Wall said his veterans are hooked up with the Dayton VA, its social workers and myriad of services and the Butler County vet board. He said they are in the program for a year and the strict oversight the court provides is another success factor.

“Some of them are reporting back to me as soon as two weeks,” he said. “Then we can drop it off to a month and then six months…,” he said. “We keep bringing them back and they’ve got to verify they are in the program and they are doing what we recommend.”

For the county common pleas court to add a VTC, no additional funds are needed because adequate staffing is already in place. Unlike the other specialty courts, veterans don’t have to live in the county to get on the VTC docket, but they do have to have a felony case from the county.

Veterans who are already in the court system won’t be switched over, especially if they are already doing well under their current probation terms. But parole violators would likely move to Oster’s court.

“I don’t anticipate it being an overwhelming number (of veterans), but we’re not going to restrict it either,” said Rob Menke, manager of court administration. “We’re not going to say ‘we’re at capacity now so this veteran is not appropriate.’ We’re going to continue to offer services and if we need expansion with additional supervision officers or additional veterans justice outreach, maybe from the VA, maybe that’s something to look at.”

Butler County Court Administrator Wayne Gilkison said there are no leniency provisions in the program, and the veterans will be treated according to the law.

“It’ll be no different than any other offender that comes through,” he said. “They would be eligible (to have their felony record expunged) according to the time frames prescribed by Ohio Revised Court.”

Oster said he and the other common pleas judges felt this was a worthy cause.

“The reality is if we can’t make time to help our veterans then I don’t think there is really time for anything,” he said. “These are men and women who have given us the abilities and the freedoms to even have our jobs and our freedom and the liberties that we have. If we can’t make time to help them, then there’s something wrong.”

Family displaced, home damaged in Miami Twp. fire

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 9:33 AM

Miami Township crews battle a garage fire this morning.

A Miami Twp. family will be displaced after a fire damaged their home on Carnation Road Tuesday morning. 

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Firefighters were dispatched to the home in the 6100 block of Carnation Road around 8:10 a.m. and found a fire in the attached garage. 

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The blaze was contained to the garage, but smoke spread throughout the home, according to investigators. 

Two children and an adult were able to evacuate before firefighters arrived on scene. No injuries were reported but the family will be displaced. 

The cause of the fire has not been determined and is under investigation. 

Wright State’s Raiderthon raises $45K for local hospital

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 9:49 AM

WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY
WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY

Wright State University helped raise more than $45,000 for Dayton Children’s Hospital during its fifth annual Raiderthon dance marathon, school officials announced Tuesday.

The event was held Saturday in the Student Union Apollo Room on campus from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday.

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More than 400 dancers registered for the 2017 edition of the fundraiser and school officials said over the last four years nearly $200,000 has been raised for Dayton Children’s.

WPAFB joins in new partnerships for bat conservation

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 10:12 AM


            An Indiana bat, a species identified by the federal government as endangered, was one of several bats captured during a mist net survey at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in June. Mist nets are lightweight, very difficult for the flying animals to see or detect and are used by biologists and others in bat research. Acoustic surveys for bats, like those currently being conducted on the base, are the follow-on method to determine size and distribution of bat populations. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service courtesy photo/Keith Lott)
An Indiana bat, a species identified by the federal government as endangered, was one of several bats captured during a mist net survey at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in June. Mist nets are lightweight, very difficult for the flying animals to see or detect and are used by biologists and others in bat research. Acoustic surveys for bats, like those currently being conducted on the base, are the follow-on method to determine size and distribution of bat populations. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service courtesy photo/Keith Lott)

Aircraft aren’t the only things flying around Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Endangered Indiana bats patrol the night skies, foraging for insects over the Mad River corridor. This 8,000-acre installation contains about 700 acres of forested areas along streams, with a wide variety of native trees: maple, oak, hickory and others.

The site is prime summer habitat for Indiana bats; managers discovered a maternity colony in 1993 and have been tracking it ever since.

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Female Indiana bats need forest habitat where they form colonies in summer, roosting in older trees under loose bark, giving birth to a single pup, and foraging for insects along stream corridors. That means it’s important for young trees to grow up to replace old trees as they die off. And while that’s a natural process, sometimes non-native, invasive plants take over, and their impact can literally alter the landscape.

Invasive bush honeysuckle, introduced during the late 1800s for landscaping and, ironically, wildlife habitat, has become common throughout Ohio and the eastern United States. Bush honeysuckle is an aggressive invasive plant that leafs out earlier in the spring than native plants and stays green well into the fall after most plants are dormant. Honeysuckle shades out native plants, preventing the growth of young native tree species needed by bats and other forest wildlife.

That’s what managers began to see at Wright-Patterson. Darryn Warner, the base’s natural resources program manager, noticed that native tree saplings in the understory were being out-competed by honeysuckle, and without management, few young trees would replace older trees as they die off. Over time, Indiana bat habitat could become significantly degraded, or lost altogether. He wanted to address the issue quickly, and thought that the Sike’s Act would be the tool to get it done.

The Sike’s Act is a law that requires all military installations to “provide for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources.” Under the Sike’s Act, Wright-Patterson and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service became partners, with the Air Force funding service work to control invasive species and jump-start forest regeneration in treated areas.

With staff, equipment and expertise from Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana, work began. Crews cut large honeysuckle bushes and treated the area to prevent resprouts on about 115 acres at Wright-Patterson. Native trees like shellbark hickory, favored by roosting bats as maternity colony sites, have been planted. More work is planned over the next five years.

So how is the Indiana bat faring at Wright-Patterson since this work began? With funding from Wright-Patterson, the Service’s Ohio Ecological Services Field Office surveyed the Indiana bat population during the summer of 2017. Using mist nets to capture and release bats, service biologists found a total of 85 individual bats, including five Indiana bats. Adult female Indiana bats were fitted with radio transmitters and tracked to roost trees along the Mad River, on Wright-Patterson property. Biologists observed the trees at dusk, and as many as 17 bats were observed emerging from the trees in one night, confirming that a maternity colony of Indiana bats is still present at Wright-Patterson. This colony has persisted now for at least 24 years at the base, indicating long-term suitable habitat is present.

During the mist net survey several other exciting finds occurred. Biologists were able to confirm the presence of a male northern long-eared bat, a federally listed threatened species, multiple silver-haired bats, and an evening bat. This was the first mist net survey to detect them despite considerable prior effort.

Indiana bats, northern long-eared bats and other cave-hibernating bats nationwide face the daunting threat of white-nose syndrome, a fungus that infects bats during hibernation and has killed millions of bats in the past decade. Ensuring that high-quality summer habitat for maternity colonies is a critical step in helping the bats that do survive white-nose syndrome recover and reproduce during the summer. Wright-Patterson is doing their part to ensure these small pilots have a safe landing spot this summer.

Woman holds decoration drive to help victims of Hurricane Harvey celebrate holidays

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 10:10 AM

File photo
Scott Barbour/Getty Images
File photo(Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

As Texas continues to recover during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, many are trying to figure out how they will celebrate the holiday season after they’ve lost everything.

One woman came up with an idea to help bring a little normalcy for hurricane victims during the next few weeks and help brighten up their temporary homes this Christmas, KBMT reported.

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Meredith Love, with some help from Gretchen Scoggins and schools in Hardin County, Texas, organized a free holiday decoration giveaway.

Love and the others collected donations through social media to provide ornaments, trees and garlands to Hurricane Harvey victims this past weekend, KBMT reported.

Love posted on her Facebook page that more than 200 people were able to collect something to make their living arrangements a little more homey this Thanksgiving and Christmas.