TOPEKA – (November 13, 2019) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is asking Congress to fund Veterans Treatment Courts as a vital tool to identify, treat and help reintegrate veterans returning home from military service into their local communities.
Schmidt, along with 43 other state and territory attorneys general, last week sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee urging the passage of the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act. The bipartisan legislation, which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and awaits consideration in the U.S. Senate, would establish a Veteran Treatment Court Program in the United States Department of Justice to provide grants and technical assistance to state, local and tribal courts that implement Veterans Treatment Courts.
“We have seen too many cases in our courts where veterans commit a criminal offense, often minor or non-violent, which can be attributed in part to a service or combat related injury, mental health problem or substance abuse,” the attorneys general wrote in the letter. “Sadly, in many cases, veterans are not properly identified, and they become lost in the criminal justice system without the necessary help, medical treatment, and therapy they are entitled to or deserve. This encourages a cycle of recidivism, hopelessness, non-recovery, and sometimes, serious injury or death. Throughout the country, Veterans Treatment Courts have emerged as a vital tool to break this cycle.”
Veterans Treatment Courts are diversionary court processes, similar to drug and mental health courts, used for minor, non-violent offenses. These courts pair veterans with mentors to address substance abuse and mental health issues and assist veterans with obtaining United States Veterans Administration benefits that can help them with treatment and employment.
The Johnson County Veterans Treatment Court Program was launched in 2016 as the first Veterans Treatment Court in Kansas. There are currently more than 450 Veterans Treatment Courts in 40 states and territories.
The attorneys general note in the letter that more than 16 veterans a day commit suicide, and in 2017, the suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times the rate for non-veteran adults. Since September 11, 2001, more than 3.3 million Americans have voluntarily served in the armed forces.
A copy of the letter is available at https://bit.ly/2rFhmKb.