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Report Shows Veterans Treatment Courts Critical for Reintegration

Specialized Veterans Treatment Courts (VTC)—a growing trend across the United States—are effectively providing former members of the armed forces with the support and services they need, according to "Veterans Treatment Courts: 2015 Survey Results," a new report by the Justice Programs Office (JPO) at American University's School of Public Affairs.

"Veterans Treatment Courts are relatively new," says Kim Ball, JD, director of JPO. "We hope that this report, the most in-depth on this topic to-date, will help courts continue to improve and meet best practice standards."

According to a 2008 study, nearly half a million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD or depression. More than 300,000 struggle with substance abuse, and an equal number are estimated to have suffered some form of traumatic brain injury. VTCs help to connect vets with essential health and mental health services and provide a sense of "mission" and a military support network that many participants in the courts say they lost when they returned to civilian life. Introduced in 2008, VTC is a new type of "problem solving" or "treatment court" that addresses substance use disorders and other issues underlying participants' involvement in the justice system; successful participants become eligible to have their sentences reduced or the charges against them dropped.

The JPO report analyzed responses to questionnaires completed by participants in VTCs around the country and found that, true to their intent, these new courts are providing veterans with the access to much needed services. More than 80% of the courts indicated that they were able to match participants with veteran mentors who could provide assistance both in and out of the courtroom. Most courts are also following established best practices. More than 80% of the courts conducted random drug tests for those whose offenses involved substance abuse; more than 90% had policy and procedure manuals, formal mission and purpose statements, and clearly defined roles and responsibilities for those who are part of the Veterans Treatment Court team; and more than 90% said they shared information with the VA to facilitate service delivery, usually through Veterans Justice Outreach specialists assigned to the court.

"The men and women who serve our country deserve all the help we can provide them when they return home," says AU School of Public Affairs' senior associate dean Vicky Wilkins, PhD, who has conducted research on veterans' issues. "Veterans Treatment Courts hold participants accountable, but they also allow veterans to receive the treatment and services they need to heal."

A webinar highlighting the findings of the report will be held on Tuesday, December 13, at 2 PM.

Source: American University