U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, D-Fla., scored a win this week as his “Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act” cleared a key committee and is now headed to the House floor.
At the start of the year, Crist and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, brought out the bill 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 130 cosponsors for the bill and a host of veterans groups have thrown their support behind it.
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.”
This week, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee passed Crist’s bill without opposition and it’s now headed for a full House vote.
“Pinellas and Pasco Counties have been blessed with a veterans treatment court program that offers life-saving and life-changing second chances to non-violent veterans caught in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, many veterans live in communities where these options don’t exist,” said Crist on Wednesday. “The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act will expand and bolster existing vet courts, while helping communities without one set up their own. I want to thank Chairman Nadler for his leadership moving this legislation, and we will continue the push to make this law.”
“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 grateful to the Judiciary Committee for their consideration and am proud to support our veterans in every way that I possibly can.”
Crist has increasingly focused on veteran treatment courts. From his spot on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, earlier this year, Crist helped secure $25 million for veterans treatment court programs.
Back in May, Crist announced the funds were included in a $375 million bill dealing with opioids which cleared the House over the summer.
“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.”
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.