LANHAM, MD., Sept. 1, 2011— Newly-elected AMVETS National Commander Gary Fry announced today the passage of AMVETS Resolution 12-26, “Establish Veterans Treatment Courts,” at the 67th annual AMVETS National Convention in St. Louis, Mo.
Resolution 12-26 outlines the significant benefits of Veteran Treatment Courts to the veterans’ community, and calls upon existing Drug Courts and Mental Health Courts to assess veteran involvement within their programs and better assist this underserved population.
Fry, of Sugar Grove, Pa., said veterans suffering from substance abuse and/or mental health conditions in his home state and elsewhere have benefitted from Veterans Treatment Courts by receiving life-changing drug treatment and mental health counseling in lieu of incarceration.
“We have an obligation to ensure the men and women who have served their nation honorably have access to the benefits and treatment to which they are entitled,” said Fry. “To allow them to slip through the cracks of our criminal justice system is a national disgrace and an affront to all who have worn and continue to wear the uniform.”
With one in five veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom suffering symptoms of a mental disorder or cognitive impairment, and one in six veterans of OEF/OIF suffering substance abuse problems, unprecedented numbers of veterans are appearing in criminal courts facing charges stemming directly from these charges. Veterans Treatment Courts connect these veterans with benefits and services to which they are entitled from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks and the Veterans Benefits Administration, and assistance provided by veterans service organizations including AMVETS.
The nation’s first Veterans Treatment Court was established in early 2008 in Buffalo, New York. Since then, nearly 80 programs have been launched throughout the United States. With over 2,600 Drug Courts in operation, Justice For Vets sees the potential for a significant increase in the number of Veterans Treatment Courts in the coming years.
“The infrastructure is in place to expand this model throughout the United States to serve every eligible veteran in need. As we do so, it is critical that we have the support of our most respected veteran’s organizations,” said Justice For Vets Director of Development and Outreach Matt Stiner. “AMVETS has an unmatched reputation for serving veterans, and AMVETS’ involvement in local Veterans Treatment Courts is proving to be an invaluable tool for getting veterans stabilized and connected to the appropriate treatment and benefits. We are deeply honored to have this support.”
Fry said the expanded use of Veterans Treatment Courts nationwide is a key component of his agenda for his term as AMVETS national commander for the 2011-2012 year, and to this end, he will seek to forge strategic relationships between AMVETS and veterans legal advocacy groups, including Justice for Vets and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
READ RESOLUTION 12-26
About NADCP and Justice For Vets:
Drug Courts combine rigorous drug treatment and accountability to compel and support drug-using offenders to change their lives. After 22 years of innovation, there are now over 2,600 Drug Courts located in all 50 states. Since 1994 the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), a non-profit organization 501 (c) (3) representing over 27,000 multi-disciplinary justice professionals and community leaders, has worked tirelessly at the national, state and local level to create and enhance Drug Courts. Now, the Drug Court community is answering the call of duty at home to meet the needs of justice-involved veterans struggling with substance abuse and/or mental illness. In the country’s first Veterans Treatment Courts, veterans have the opportunity to go through the treatment court process with the support of other veterans and a team of court staff that understands military culture and the specific issues with which veterans are faced. NADCP is now recognized as the experts in the field of addiction and the criminal justice system. In 2009, NADCP launched Justice For Vets: The National Clearinghouse for Veterans Treatment Courts with the goal of ensuring a Veterans Treatment Court is within reach of every eligible veteran in need. For more information, visit JusticeForVets.