We ask much of our men and women in uniform, and they ask little in return. As a nation, we are ultimately responsible for ensuring whatever effects veterans suffer in the mission of defending our nation will be treated here at home. So on this Veterans Day, the question we must ask ourselves is: If veterans fought for our freedom, shouldn’t we fight for theirs?
The Atlantic Judicial Circuit Veterans Treatment Court is proud to say that we are fighting for the freedom of our veterans. While most who serve are strengthened by the military experience, some struggle to reengage with life at home. Too many veterans are winding up in the criminal justice system suffering from mental illness, cognitive impairment, and substance abuse. They are unable to cope with the invisible wounds of war on their own. These veterans have earned the opportunity for treatment and restoration.
The Atlantic Judicial Circuit Veterans Treatment Court was created in response to the growing number of veterans appearing on dockets who were addicted to drugs and alcohol and/or suffering from mental impairment or trauma. By operating a Veterans Treatment Court, our community is at the forefront of a national movement to give justice-involved veterans the treatment, benefits, and services they have earned. According to Justice for Vets, the only national organization committed to the expansion of Veterans Treatment Courts, there are now nearly 306 Veterans Treatment Court programs in the United States with hundreds more being planned.
As of July 1, 2016 we have six individuals that have been admitted to our Court with the assistance of the Department of Veterans Affairs, we connect them to treatment and disability compensation. We encourage veterans from the community to volunteer as mentors to offer peer-to-peer support to their fellow veterans in our program. We get them back to school and find them jobs. We keep them out of jail so they can remain connected with their families and communities. These veterans complete the program with a renewed sense of service, dignity and honor.
Our community has made great strides by being one of many in the nation to recognize the need for a Veterans Treatment Court. Let’s continue to work together to maintain funding for these courts and to raise awareness of the needs of our Veterans. As we observe Veteran’s Day, let’s make a commitment that no Veteran in our community will be left behind.
If you know of a Veteran with a current criminal case in the Atlantic Judicial Circuit (Liberty, Long, Bryan, McIntosh, Evans & Tattnall) have them contact Della Martin Horne at (912) 368-5897 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: This opinion piece was provided by Della Martin of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit Veterans Treatment Court and Justice for Vets.