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Buffalo model expands across nation
The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act (H.R. 886), a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, has been signed into law. This legislation “provides support for and assistance to those brave Americans who have dutifully served in the armed forces.”
Through the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act, a national veterans treatment court program will be established by the Department of Justice. The purpose of this program is to provide grants and technical assistance for state, local and tribal governments to develop and maintain veteran treatment courts.
Veteran treatment courts divert cases involving mental health disorders, substance abuse, and homelessness from the traditional justice system into programs that can better provide requisite treatment and tools for rehabilitation and readjustment. The pressing need for such a program reflects a growing body of research documenting an increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction and other mental health disorders amongst veterans.
Higgins said, “In 2008, seeking to address the unique underlying issues some veterans in court face, Buffalo City Court Judge Robert Russell established the first veteran treatment court in the United States. Judge Russell’s original program laid the groundwork for this country to begin taking proper care of those courageous servicemen and servicewomen who have risked their lives to protect us here at home.”
Since then, nearly 500 veteran treatment courts have been established nationwide.
A press release said, “The enactment of this law will help support and expand the program, thereby providing countless veterans with treatment and assistance from designated veteran health care professionals, peer mentors and mental health specialists.”