Written by Lynn Goya,
Ask a soldier and (s)he’ll tell you that serving in the military is like no other life experience. Trying to merge back in to the civilian world is often challenging. For those veterans who end up in the court system, there is increasing understanding by the courts that giving a veteran a helping hand instead of handcuffs may be better for the veteran and better for society as a whole. Veterans Treatment Courts take key concepts from Drug and Mental Health Courts to look beyond the specific crime to the situation or mental conditions that may have led to the act. Vets suffering from PTSD often have issues with alcoholism, drug use or serious mental health disorders.
Using the Drug Court model of trading strict recovery time for prison time, judges may grant veterans the opportunity to become clean, take advantage of mental health services provided by the Veterans Administration, and work with volunteer veteran mentors to get their lives in order. The court provides coordinated services to help the veteran deal with all the components of his life that led to committing a crime. Not only does the court work with veterans’ families to help them offer support, the vet is paired with a designated vet mentor who keeps in constant touch to help mitigate any temptation to return to the conditions that led to the crime. Unlike other drug courts, the Veterans Court has the backup of a dedicated health network. As part of the Veteran Justice Outreach Initiative, the VA Health Care Network includes a Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist (VJO) within each of their medical centers who coordinates outreach that extends to local law enforcement, jails and the courts; assesses the needs of the vet and provides case management for those involved with the justice system.
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