HAMILTON, Ohio -- Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Oster Jr. sat in his usual spot Monday morning, but with a new docket. He now presides over Butler County's new Veterans Treatment Court.
The court is a diversion program to help veterans get treatment for drug- and alcohol-related problems. Municipal judges in Hamilton and Middletown have been operating Veterans Treatment Courts for several years, but Oster's court is the first for the county.
"It's there to get them engaged in the VA, it's there to get them help for their issues and really walk them through so they can have a much more productive (life)," Oster said. "These were people who have served us all, who gave the greatest sacrifice. What we're here to do is put them back on track."
Rickey Staarmann and Duane Parish are among some of the vets getting help. Between them, they have more than two dozen clean drug tests in the past few months.
"My phone is all new now with all new numbers," said Parish, an Army veteran. "I don't have any of my old friends or anything. They're all veterans -- sober veterans. Even the people that have left the program, we have their numbers and we call each other all the time."
Both credit each other's support as the most important piece in their sobriety.
"You could be a total stranger. We look out for one another. We've got each other's 'six' as we call it, and we all try to help each other out," said Staarmann, a Navy veteran.
The court also takes on unemployment and homelessness -- factors that could contribute to veterans ending up on the wrong side of the law, Oster told WCPO media partner the Journal-News.
A Veterans Treatment Court doesn't go easy on veterans, Oster said. It holds them accountable.
"We're not here to say, 'Well you get a free pass,' and I don't think they want a free pass," Oster said. "In talking to other judges who run these courts, the veterans, they want to get back on that path they want, the camaraderie they want, those positive steps forward."