Justice for veterans: Lane County’s Veterans Treatment Court diverts veterans from jail into treatment. by Pat Farr

 

Retired US Marine Ron Cooper and I are stepping into Lane County’s Veterans Treatment Court. Ron has been a mentor and guide in the court since its launch.

Most veterans are strengthened by their military service, but the combat experience has unfortunately left a growing number of veterans with issue such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury. One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment (details here). One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance use issue. Research continues to draw a link between substance use and combat-related mental illness (details here). Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.

Lane County’s Veterans Treatment Court, administered by Lane County Circuit Court Judge Valeri Love, requires regular court appearances, as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions, and frequent and random testing for drug and alcohol use. Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment, given their past experiences in the Armed Forces. However, a few will struggle, and it is exactly those veterans who need a veterans treatment court program the most. Without this structure, these veterans might re-offend and remain in the criminal justice system. The veterans treatment court is able to ensure they meet their obligations to themselves, the court, and their community.

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