Sunday, April 21, 2013

Veterans Courts Successful: With Your Help

Comedian George Carlin said the above in 1990 as part of a much longer routine, Euphemisms, on how we have taken the humanity out of words to make them sound softer and with less importance.

While I do not fully agree his assessment of the Vietnam war as “lies and deceits surrounding that war,” he does make a valid argument on Veterans in the past not having the help they would need in dealing with the horrors they might have been subjected to when they try to return to their previous lives.

As explained before, PTSD is very real and fortunately not every Veteran is afflicted with it. Of those that are, most have found the fortitude to face it and seek help offered. But as with virtually everything, some, only a few, either do not recognize they may have it or attempt to deal with it on their own for any variety of reasons.

All too often, those few turn to alcohol or drugs that only compounds the problems they are dealing with and all too often, lands them in legal trouble, facing a jail or prison term for DUI’s or domestic violence mostly.

In the past those few were treated like every day criminals and just locked up with no regard for the what or the why of their problems, completely ignoring how the very war society sent them too created their troubles. In turn, this treatment not only compounded their problem, it all too often resulted in homelessness or worse, suicide.

Whether or not we agreed with or disapproved of their being sent off to war, we as a society did send them into harm’s way and subjected them to the horrors and brutality of war. As a society we owe them much, not the least of which is assistance in dealing with the very demons we gave them.

Recognizing the failure of society in helping those Veterans, a Judge from Buffalo, New York, Judge Robert Russell, who was instrumental in creating that cities drug and mental health treatment court, created the “nation’s first veterans treatment court” where instead of jail time for minor infractions of the law, “the veterans [are] required to get mental health or addiction counseling, find jobs, stay clean and sober and get their lives back on track.”

Through a program of mentoring by other Veterans and directing the Veteran to the Veterans Healthcare facilities, treatment they either did not know about or were hesitant to seek, taxpayers are saved thousands of dollars from their incarceration and the Veteran receives the needed care, helping them to get their lives back in order, become productive members of society again and prevent a future suicides.

As news of Judge Russell’s successful efforts spread, we began seeing similar programs appear in cities across America. Results seen in community after community have shown a high success rate.

In Minnesota the Hennepin County Veterans Court is seeing “83 percent committed fewer offenses after six months in the program as compared with the six months before entering.” Of that success rate, Hennepin County Court Administrator Mark Thompson says, “This is a particularly troubled population when they come through the door. My guess is 75 percent would reoffend within a year, so 83 percent not reoffending is an amazing statistic.”

In a short term study, Montgomery County Pennsylvania concludes “A recent 2011 study by Widener University School of Law concluded that the recidivism rates of veterans treatment courts is similar or possibly lower than other specialty courts. Research on other specialty courts (drug, mental health, and DWI) has shown their effectiveness in reducing future criminal behavior.”

Down in San Diego, California, Superior Court Judge Roger W. Krauel, a Vietnam veteran who presides over the court signed a report concluding, “The veterans treatment court model that we use here in San Diego is a good tool. It costs less than incarceration and works better than incarceration. To date we have saved over $2.1 million dollars in jail costs. We’re changing lives and keeping a community very safe,” as expressed by Jude Litzenberger, the court’s coordinator.

Study after study shows the success of Veterans Courts. Even here in Clark County Washington, similar successes have been shown in past posts on this blog promoting fundraisers for our Veterans Court.

District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman, founding presiding Judge of the Clark County Veterans Court said, “The Vets Court has had approximately 35 Veterans enter since its start in March of 2011. It has the highest graduation rate of any specialty court in Clark County. More than double most other courts as the Veterans really want to succeed. From a taxpayers viewpoint it is a great deal as the VA has the space and time to do all the treatment for the Vets and therefore the average of $6000.00 set aside for treatment costs in the other courts is not necessary. So one way of looking at it is we save the county $60,000 for every 10 Vets that we treat in Vets Court. Plus by treating the Vets as opposed to incarcerating them at $76 a day is a savings too.”

The Clark County Veterans Court was started with a federal grant that is soon expiring and is not taxpayer supported. It remains in operation due to generous contributions from Clark County citizens and those fund raisers this blog and others have promoted.

April 27, 2013, just next week will see another star studded event at the Luepke Center, featuring such local entertainment as Ricky Lee Jackson and Shawna Quade, a top 20 Elvis Tribute Artist, Marc Stevenz and several more.

For an admission price of just $15, you will receive some of the best entertainment in Clark County and be treated to beverages and gourmet desserts provided by Goldies BBQ at no extra cost to you. In addition there will be Hawaiian style BBQ available for purchase along with some Hawaiian entertainment.

But more importantly, you will be helping to fund a very successful program assisting Veterans in need as they regain the lives they had before we sent them off to war.

To be candid, April 27 looks like it is going to be a very busy day in our community as several events are also planned on that day. With the Luepke Event scheduled for two shows, a Matinee Concert from 2 to 4:30 pm and an Evening Concert from 5 to 7:30 pm, you can easily do both in the same day without interfering with other fundraisers you may desire to attend.

But as said above, the important thing is that you will be helping those Veterans in need when they need and deserve our help the most.

Unfounded Opposition

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the Colorado ACLU once opined, “Should the criminal justice system take into account PTSD when it arises from military service but disregard it when it stems from different but nevertheless horrific life experiences?”

In this Veterans mind, yes. PTSD arising from the horrors of war is different than many other cases since we as a society put those Veterans where they would be subjected to such hardships. Unlike other cases of PTSD, as a society we have been very slow in recognizing the harm we have caused these men & women who voluntarily place themselves between us and our enemies that wish to destroy our way of life.

Society has long offered victims programs and counseling to others who may suffer a traumatic event, even to the extent of sending counselors into an area for their assistance.

Veterans, on the other hand, have been required to seek it out on their own or struggle with their demons by themselves. Veterans Courts recognizes their need and pushes them towards the treatment needed by those few, hopefully before they become violent or are driven to suicide.

I hope you agree that these men & women deserve a second chance and that you will take time out of your busy day next week to come to Luepke Center and offer your support to our Veterans Court.

You can obtain your tickets at Beacock Music, Music World, Young Art, HairBlenders Salon, Goldies BBQ or you can order then online at

Come on out and show the community that you care about our Veterans.

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