As many as a third of veterans who return from deployment come home with mental health issues — such as post-traumatic stress, adjustment, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders — that stem from the horrors of war. Veterans who suffer from these disorders often have difficulty reintegrating into society, leading them to act uncharacteristically, and at times unlawfully, as a direct result of serving their country.
The topic has been widely covered by scientific studies and in popular culture (from David Morrell’s 1972 novel First Blood to Jim Sheridan’s 2009 film Brothers), but until recently there was no legal mechanism that connected criminal behavior with mental health problems resulting from armed conflict. That all changed with the first Veterans Treatment Court in Buffalo NY, which was established in 2008 and has since been used as a model for veterans courts across the United States — such as in Maricopa County AZ, which started a Veterans Court in 2011.
Veterans courts don’t offer special treatment for vets, however they integrate information from both the county and the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a therapy-focused, rather than retribution-centric, courtroom environment. Vet courts across the country focus on substance abuse and mental health rehabilitation programs, and work toward helping veterans readjust to a civilian lifestyle. The courts attempt to solve problems, rather than punish for them, and work with vets to help them stabilize their lives.
Get a first-hand look at Maricopa County’s Veterans Court in the video below.
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