Monday, February 29th, 2016

The Morris County Board of Freeholders has unanimously passed a resolution urging the state to create Veterans Treatment Courts in New Jersey, similar to those in most other states in the nation, to assist veterans with drug and/or mental health issues and who have gotten involved in criminal justice matters involving the courts.

Tom Mastrangelo

Tom Mastrangelo

The board, in strongly urging the New Jersey Veterans PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome) Task Force to find in favor of establishing such courts, also has asked all other county freeholder boards, veterans’ organizations, and Gov. Chris Christie to support this initiative.

“We need to make sure that our veterans get the assistance and services they are entitled to after serving their country with honor,’’ said Freeholder Tom Mastrangelo,who introduced the resolution. “This assistance would target veterans who are suffering from the effects of the military service they provided to keep us all safe and free.’’

“Veterans Treatment Courts recognize the tremendous services members of our armed forces provide to this nation,’’ added Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo.

“It’s the least we can do for our veterans, who are always on call to protect us, and deal with some very difficult situations on our behalf,’’ added Freeholder Doug Cabana.

In 2010, the state enacted a bill establishing a task force to study the treatment of veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in judicial proceedings. That Task Force is charged with identifying and reviewing issues and concerns of military veterans and National Guard members who have been diagnosed with PTSD, with respect to how that disorder has impacted them in judicial proceedings.

MC

The Veterans Treatment Court model is based on a model where substance abuse or mental health treatment is offered as an alternative to incarceration, with other veterans typically functioning as the mentors in these programs.

The Veterans Treatment Courts start with the premise of providing veterans involved with the criminal justice system with programs and services to overcome challenges they face. It also maximizes utilization of the Department of Veterans Affairs resources.

Currently, some 9 percent of defendants in New Jersey’s criminal justice system, or about

12,000, are veterans. Although most are eligible for VA services, 18 percent have no access to these VA services.

New Jersey has 712,000 military veterans, which is 16th highest of all states in the nation. But it is one of only 15 states without a Veterans Treatment Court System.