Mentors for Hillsborough County Veterans is a small organization that makes a huge impact in Tampa. The volunteers serve as mentors for veterans who are in the Veterans’ Treatment Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit of Hillsborough County Florida. Veterans who are arrested and charged with a variety of criminal charges, can seek admission to the Court. The Presiding Judge, the Honorable Michael Scionti, conducts interview with the veteran to make sure he or she meets the legal qualifications to participate in the Program, and the veteran signs a legally binding contract. Upon entry, the veteran is assigned a mentor, who is a veteran, who is their battle buddy. The mentor guides the veteran, serves as a shepherd, a sounding board, a best friend, and a resource. Concurrent with their mentorship, the veteran is required to assist in formulating a treatment plan for the physical and mental health issues they may face, such as PTSD, as well as tertiary issues that stem from their service such as domestic violence and anger management classes, substance abuse courses, legally required DUI sanctions, and counseling. In addition to their court mandated treatment plan, every veteran is required to accomplish a minimum of 50 hours of community service, as well as maintain sobriety during the program, which is a minimum of 270 days. What sets our program apart from other special courts in the 13th Circuit, such as Drug or Mental Health Courts, is the mentor. Mentors and veterans communicate at various frequencies, but at a minimum weekly. Some are daily communications, and some have been started at multiple times per day. Our mentors work hand in hand with our partners (The State Attorneys Office, the Office of the Public Defender, the Florida Department of Corrections, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office) and our various health care and substance abuse treatment providers (DACCO, ACTS, Riverside Recovery, Steps to Recovery) and the Veterans Administration. Using that team work, we provide the veteran with more than just appointments, we make sure they show up, or attend, and participate actively in their treatment, and make the appointments with the probation authority and drug testing providers. More importantly, when veterans have difficulty with the stresses of daily life and the legal system, they know that help is a call away, as conversely, when we learn a veteran doesn’t participate, or misses appointments, the mentors won’t tolerate half-stepping our program and we’ll intervene early. The results speak for themselves. With over 300 veterans in the VTC, 88% of those accepted complete the program, and graduate. We save taxpayers $800,000+/- per year in jail costs by preventing vets going back to jail, because we step in and make corrections before punishment is needed. Less than 10% of our veteran graduates don’t re-offend in the following 18 months, which ensures the program works as advertised. It ensures graduated veterans don’t have a conviction on their record and can return to being a productive citizen. Best of all, we do it for FREE.