By Debbie Gregory.
Many of our veterans return home with substance abuse and psychological health problems, which often go untreated. Sadly, these challenges can sometimes lead to criminal or other destructive behaviors. Special Veterans Treatment Courts seek to treat veterans suffering from substance abuse and/or mental health disorders.
Veterans Treatment Courts are modeled after drug courts, which promote collaboration among the judiciary, community corrections agencies, drug treatment providers, and other community support groups.
A number of states have taken steps to promote Veterans Treatment Courts or veterans assistance within the state court system.
And now, the Justice Department has announced plans to award more than $4 million to 13 state and local jurisdictions to develop their own programs. This year’s grants will go to court systems in Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Florida, Montana, Virginia, Missouri, California, Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
The system has proven so successful that the VA has mandated that every VA medical center have a veterans justice outreach specialist who provides legal assistance to veterans and supports veterans treatment courts in their region.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald said veterans often end up in the judicial system after suffering post-traumatic stress, brain injury or mental illness that can lead to substance abuse, homelessness and criminal activity.
“And all too often, that substance abuse begins with opioids prescribed by DoD or VA doctors for service-related conditions,” McDonald said. “All of these things are preventable.”
The VA has also launched an aggressive campaign to educate physicians on prescribing practices.
Veterans Courts promote sobriety, recovery, and stability through a coordinated response involving the traditional partners found in drug courts and mental health courts, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare networks, the Veterans Benefits Administration, State Departments of Veterans Affairs, volunteer veteran mentors, and veterans family support organizations.