Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court Celebrates 4 Years of Service
Since 2004, the number of veterans being treated for mental illness and substance use disorders has increased 38 percent. It is estimated that out of the 2.2 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 550,000 have a substance abuse problem. An increasing number of veterans are appearing before the courts to face charges stemming from substance abuse and mental illness. Rather than put them in jail, communities throughout the country are looking to Veterans Treatment Courts.
Buffalo, New York recently celebrated the founding of the nation's first Veterans Treatment Court, a program started 4 years ago by Acting Erie County Court Judge and Buffalo City Court Judge Robert Russell. In Veterans Treatment Courts, veterans are given the structure and accountability to help them reconnect with values learned while in the military. Surrounded by their peers, participants are linked with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs representatives and the volunteer mentors helping them access a variety of benefits and services available at the federal, state, and local level. The Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court has had 65 veterans complete the program, and not one of them has been rearrested. Today, there are over 80 Veterans Treatment Courts operating in the United States, and hundreds more are being planned. Veterans who were once on the brink of a debilitating life of substance abuse, mental health disorder, and crime are going back to school, returning to the workforce, and most importantly, remaining united with their families. For more information about the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court and others, visit http://www.buffaloveteranscourt.org/.