The “Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act,” with the support of two members of the Florida delegation, is headed to President Donald Trump’s desk.
At the start of last year, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., 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.” The bill cleared the House on unanimous consent this week after first passing it in August.
In September, U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., introduced the proposal in the Senate with the support of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. and U.S. Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Tim Kaine, D-Va.
“Our veterans gave their all to protect our nation and the freedoms we cherish. It is our duty to ensure that not a single one of the men or women who fought for our nation is left behind,” Rubio said when he announced his support of the bill. “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing much-needed legislation to expand access to veteran treatment courts, to give our veterans a second chance, and to make certain that they are receiving the care they need and deserve.”
“So many veterans come back from war with invisible wounds that result in addiction and other behavioral manifestations,” McSally said. “Veteran courts are a proven way to get our veterans the care they need and get them back on track. Then, they can continue to contribute to society with the military core values they lived by in uniform. Judge Pollard in Tucson and the East Valley Regional Veterans Court have repeatedly had success in these programs and that’s why they ought to be expanded nationwide. Thank you to Senator Tim Kaine and all of the bill’s sponsors for partnering with me on this important and life-changing initiative for our veterans.”
Crist’s office explained the bill when the congressman introduced it back at the start of 2019.
“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.”
Crist weighed in on Monday as the bill now heads to the White House.
“Our veterans sacrificed to keep us safe. They have earned our support and understanding for the unique challenges they often face. I have seen firsthand the life-changing impact veteran treatment courts can have, getting veterans into treatment instead of jail,” said Crist. “While Pinellas has a model veterans treatment court, most communities do not. Our bill is not just a win for Pinellas and Pasco veterans, it will help expand and bolster programs nationwide – providing the counseling, care, and support our veterans need.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.