Veterans Treatment Court possible for SLO County

New approach for aiding returning veterans will get introduction at supervisors meeting

bcuddy@thetribunenews.comJanuary 27, 2013 

It is no secret that many of the 2 million veterans who have come back home from service in the Middle East have run into trouble with jobs, stress, health, and other issues, including, in some cases, the legal system.

Organizations and programs have sprung up nationwide to help them, and one of these new approaches will be on display Tuesday at the county Board of Supervisors meeting.

Dana Cummings, the county veterans affairs officer, will explain Veterans Treatment Court, which began in Buffalo five years ago, spread across the country, and now, through Cummings, could be coming to San Luis Obispo County.

In a report to the board, Cummings said there are 2.1 million post-9/11 veterans in America, of whom 65 percent have some level of post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

That number is only going to go up, he wrote, because the nation’s military, in order to lower costs, is downsizing. It will send tens of thousands more soldiers into civilian life who are “still struggling with the effects of over 10 years of war.”

Post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and sexual trauma are among the “triggers” that can lead veterans to criminal behavior, Cummings wrote.

Veterans courts help local agencies provide treatment and rehabilitation.

“The program is designed to assist local agencies by having VA-provided staff in courts, provide specialized treatment, and use trained volunteer mentors,” Cummings wrote.

Several other agencies are already doing work in this area, including the Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department, Superior Court, Mental Services, the Public Defender’s Office, and the District Attorney’s Office. The Veterans Treatment Court would add muscle, expanding the effort to help traumatized veterans.

In addition to working with veterans in the courtroom, the veterans training coordinator and volunteer mentors would work with veterans outside the court, helping them “fulfill their commitment to treatment and counseling, checking in as required with probation, and providing other support from a fellow veteran,” Cummings wrote.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo.

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