La Crosse Area Veterans Court

LAVC’s Mission and Key Strategic Goals

 The history of the La Crosse Area Veterans Court (LAVC) dates back to 2009 when a grassroots group of La Crosse area judicial, government and community leaders met to discuss the plight and needs of Veterans and their families. Although their key focus was on Veterans with service-connected injuries who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, the group also wanted to address the needs of Veterans who served in Vietnam, the Gulf War and other conflicts.

On January 4, 2010, the Honorable Todd W. Bjerke presided over a formal Activation Ceremony for the La Crosse County Veterans Court Initiative Mentor Program (“the Program”). The colors were posted at Judge Bjerke’s direction, the initial mentor coordinators were appointed, and the first certified mentors were sworn in to mentor eligible veterans.

Ten months later, on November 11, 2010, Judge Bjerke established the La Crosse Area Veterans Court (“LAVC”) to provide Veterans Treatment Court services for veterans in La Crosse, Jackson, Monroe, Trempealeau and Vernon Counties, Wisconsin, and in Houston County, Minnesota. LAVC’s jurisdiction has expanded since then to include veterans in Marathon, Pierce, Wood, Washington and other counties.

LAVC is led by Judge Bjerke, the LAVC Judge. Judge Bjerke is assisted by two La Crosse County Circuit Court employees and a part-time LAVC Coordinator. The LAVC Coordinator works for and reports directly to Judge Bjerke. LAVC’s mission is to identify veterans involved in the criminal justice system; help them readjust to civilian life; address service-connected PTSD, depression, substance abuse and other challenges; and, help them return to society as productive citizens. LAVC’s key strategic goals in furtherance of that mission include:

  • Reinvigorating the core values of the military in each Veteran’s daily life.
  • Reducing criminal recidivism.
  • Facilitating sobriety, abstinence and improved behavioral health to assure compliance with treatment and other court ordered requirements.
  • Working to alleviate Veterans’ service-connected behavioral health and substance abuse challenges.
  • Assuring that Veterans Administration (VA) benefits and services are made available to and utilized by Veterans.
  • Integrating community-based treatment options and services where appropriate.
  • Improving Veterans’ family relationships and social support connections.
  • Promoting Veterans’ economic stability.
  • Helping Veterans’ spouses and families.



What Is LAVC?

LAVC is a hybrid specialty court for Veterans with service-connected behavioral health, substance abuse, physical and other challenges. LAVC follows the same requirements of OWI, Drug and Mental Health Treatment Courts, but is specifically designed to address the unique backgrounds, experiences and challenges of Veterans who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States, and especially of those who have served in combat.

Depending upon the needs of individual Veterans, LAVC offers the following services:

  • Integrated behavioral health and substance abuse counseling.
  • A disciplined approach for helping Veterans with their challenges:
  • Alcohol and drug testing and monitoring to promote sobriety.
  • Development and implementation of individual treatment plans, which include ongoing assessments, treatment and medication management.
  • Judicial interaction with the LAVC Judge and the LAVC Team.
  • Individualized incentives and sanctions to promote behavior modification.
  • Appointment of a mentor by LAVMP.

LAVC works closely with and integrates health care and other resources offered by the VA and other community-based organizations. Participation in LAVC is entirely voluntary.


LAVC’s Evidence-Based Practices

Employing evidence-based practices established by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), LAVC uses frequent status hearings, frequent and random alcohol and drug testing, regular treatment with the VA and other qualified providers, and a range of sanctions and incentives to help Veterans involved in the criminal justice system change their behavior, reduce incarceration costs, and reduce the likelihood of recidivism.

LAVC is assisted in the foregoing effort by an independent nonprofit organization, La Crosse Area Veterans Mentor Program, Inc. (“LAVMP”). Among other things, LAVMP is involved in:

  • Identifying, screening and mentoring Veterans involved in the criminal justice system and, where appropriate, referring them to LAVC.
  • Recruiting, training, appointing and supervising mentors for such Veterans.
  • Raising funds to help and support Veterans, their families, and LAVC.


Eligibility Requirements for LAVC Participants

To participate in LAVC, Veterans – otherwise known as LAVC Participants – must:

  • Be a Veteran or member of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard or a reserve component.
  • Be affected by service-connected physical, behavioral health, substance use or other challenges.
  • Be a resident of La Crosse, Jackson, Monroe, Trempealeau, Vernon or Wood County in Wisconsin, Houston County in Minnesota, or another county approved by LAVC.


 LAVC Policy and Procedures Manual

In collaboration with LAVMP, LAVC has adopted the LAVC-LAVMP Policy and Procedures Manual. See the following hyperlink for the current LAVC-LAVMP Policy and Procedures Manual.


Click here for PDF of Manual