Veterans Treatment Court returns back to in-person graduation ceremonies

Great Falls- After being forced to hold zoom ceremonies for more than a year Veterans Treatment Court is finally returning back to in-person graduation ceremonies.

Of course, there were smiles and hugs everywhere but the most important thing was that the workers were able to finally see these graduates in person and really determine if the graduates were healthy enough to move on to the next chapter of their life.

"It helps you understand the communication, you know just reading people's body language in person you can see "ok I think that person might be struggling" just by their body language, and you can't see that on zoom," said Veteran Court Coordinator Kathy Hankes.

The VTC and family members gathered to celebrate three honorees on finally passing the program.

During the program, all members are required to accomplish different tasks, as well as receive mental and physical treatment.

Although it was nice to have virtual ceremonies during the heat of the pandemic Hankes says it's nice to get back to their traditional ways.

"The courtroom is really a learning experience. You learn from other people in the program, you know what's going on with their life and their treatment, and you get that judicial interaction and that in-person connection, which everyone knows is so important in recovery."

Hankes has been a part of Veterans Treatment Court for a few years and typically has at least three to five graduates every other month.

Although graduates experienced their ceremony in different ways Hankes says she’s glad to see everyone make it to the finish line.

"I don't want to take away from people that did graduate on zoom because they worked their butts off; I’m going to tell you. Those people that went through covid and graduated this program... I mean we had no UA's for a while, everything went virtual, there was a lot of loneliness, so major kudos for those people that were able to graduate this program through a pandemic."

To keep in-person graduation ceremonies in place the VTC is incentivizing vaccinations which means those who are vaccinated will not be required to wear a mask.

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