Justice For Vets Expands Veterans Treatment Courts

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Alexandria-headquartered Justice For Vets recently announced that the number of Veterans Treatment Courts across the nation increased by 28 percent between 2013 and 2014, with hundreds more in the planning stages. The Veterans Treatment Courts help serve veterans who would otherwise be incarcerated.

Currently, there are 264 Veterans Treatment Courts operating in 37 states and one U.S. territory (Guam), all of which are serving an estimated 13,200 veterans. Veterans Treatment Courts help divert veterans suffering from substance abuse or mental health conditions by combining structure, rigorous treatment and peer mentoring from about 3,000 volunteer veteran mentors to connect veterans in crisis with local, state and federal benefits.

“Veterans Treatment Courts are spreading across the country because they work, and because there is an urgent and growing need,” said Justice For Vets Senior Director Melissa Fitzgerald in a statement. “The vast majority of veterans are strengthened by their military service, but not everyone’s journey home is the same. Too many veterans are entering the justice system due to substance abuse, mental health conditions or trauma.”

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system, according to a statement from Justice for Vets. An estimated one in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health issue or cognitive impairment, and one in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom suffers from a substance abuse issue. The most recent data from the Department of Justice shows an estimated 700,000 veterans are involved with the justice system.

“Across the nation, communities are stepping up to connect these veterans to the treatment and services they have earned,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “Veterans Treatment Courts are saving lives, reducing crime and saving taxpayer dollars. They are criminal justice reform in action.”

In February, the Community Mental Health Journal released the first published study on Veterans Treatment Courts finding that veterans participating in the program experienced significant improvement with depression, PTSD and substance abuse as well as with critical social issues including housing, emotional well-being, relationships and overall functioning. The study also found that veterans who receive mentoring not only experience better clinical outcomes, they report feeling more socially connected.