The Manatee County Veterans Treatment Court held its first session in Bradenton, Fla. on Aug. 6, 2015, before Circuit Judge Andrew Owens Jr. as a way to help vets who enter the judicial system get treatment and assistance.

But one of the stumbling blocks for the program has been finding enough veterans to mentor those trying to find their way back into society.

“Mentors are what make the program a success,” Chris Landis, Veterans Treatment Court services coordinator for the 12th Judicial Circuit, said Thursday at the Manatee County Veterans Council meeting.

There are only six mentors now serving all of Manatee and Sarasota, and about 20 are needed, Landis said.

An estimated 500 veterans enter the criminal justice system annually in Bradenton-Sarasota, and the veterans court is intended to assist those facing lower level charges.

“Veterans court has a 90 percent success rate,” Landis said. Veterans interested in mentoring may contact Landis at

Also appearing at Thursday’s Veterans Council meeting was John Secor, Sarasota Film Festival producer.

The festival has launched “Project Rebirth” to teach documentary filmmaking to post-9/11 veterans.

“This is our first year. We started with four veterans, and they are really going to town. They are so into it,” Secor said.

The mission of Project Rebirth is to “facilitate healing, foster hope and build resilience.”

This year’s veteran-produced documentary focuses on veterans treatment court and is set to be shown April 4 during the Sarasota Fim Festival.

Organizers hope to double the class size for Project Rebirth. For more information, email

———©2017 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.) Visit The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.) at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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