From his new spot on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., helped secure $25 million for Veterans Treatment Court programs.
Last week, Crist announced the funds were included in a $375 million bill dealing with opioids that cleared the Appropriations Committee last week and is now headed to the House floor.
“Our servicemembers answer the call of duty and risk their lives to protect our nation. Unfortunately, after military service, too many veterans experience mental health issues, substance abuse, and homelessness,” said Crist. “Treatment courts offer veterans facing non-violent charges a second chance, keeping them out of jail and into the counseling, care, and support they need to heal.”
Crist pointed out that there is a Veterans Treatment Court in Clearwater which focuses on Pinellas and Pasco Counties.
“The court was established with state funding provided in 2013,” Crist’s office noted. “The program works with local judges, police, local VA officials, veteran organizations, prosecutors, public defenders, and other community organizations – who come together to ensure the best possible outcomes for veterans facing the legal system.”
At the start of the year, Crist and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, brought out the “Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act” which “would enhance state and local veteran treatment court programs that support the unique needs of veterans who find themselves in the criminal justice system.” So far, they have reeled in more than 100 cosponsors for the bill and a host of veterans groups have thrown their support behind it.
“I have seen firsthand the life-changing impact veteran treatment court programs can have, with Pinellas fortunate to have one in our backyard. Unfortunately, veterans in too many communities do not have access to the same support. Our bill will help expand and bolster such programs nationwide – providing the counseling, care, and support our veterans need to help transition into civilian life more successfully,” said Crist when he unveiled the proposal. “With overwhelming support from members of Congress and veterans organizations, I hope we can quickly move this legislation forward to better support our veterans. It’s what they have earned, and what they deserve.”
“It is incumbent on Congress to make sure our veterans receive the best possible treatment when they return home from serving our country,” said Stefanik. “Unfortunately, due to the stressors and psychological impact of their service, some veterans become entangled in the criminal justice system. This bill would give non-violent offenders a chance to rehabilitate themselves through a special program tailored to the unique needs of veterans. I’m proud to support our veterans in every way that I possibly can.”
Crist’s office explained the bill when the congressman introduced it back in January.
“After serving our country, too many veterans are experiencing mental health issues, substance abuse, and homelessness, which can often land them in the criminal justice system. Veteran treatment courts provide the counseling, care, and support veterans need to help address these challenges and more successfully transition to civilian life,” Crist’s office noted. “The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act establishes a program within the Department of Justice, in coordination with the VA, to provide grants, training, and technical assistance to help state, local, and tribal governments develop and maintain veteran treatment courts. Currently, these programs are supported by dedicated individuals in law enforcement, the judicial system, the legal community, VA officials, Veterans Service Organizations, and other community organizations. The bill would provide federal resources for the establishment of new treatment courts.”
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.