This article in The Seattle Times, “Seattle, King County to Set up Special Veterans Courts,” caught our eye as an interesting follow-up to an MCNtalk posting a few weeks ago, “The Wrong Way to Help Veterans.”
The New York Times op ed piece which inspired our first posting on the subject of veterans and the mental health system noted that “as many as 20 percent of them will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression, while suicide rates have reached tragic new highs among veterans.”
The Seattle Times article notes that Seattle will open a special court Sept. 20 for military veterans charged with nonviolent crimes, and King County may not be far behind. Veterans Court, part of Seattle Municipal Court, is intended to give some vets charged with misdemeanor offenses a chance to obtain substance-abuse and mental-health treatment while still being held accountable for their actions, according to court officials.
“Providing a specialized court experience for veterans is a logical extension of the services already available in Mental Health Court and Community Court,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a news release. “My office is dedicated to ensuring that veterans will be held accountable for misdemeanor crimes, but in the supportive environment they deserve.”
Veterans courts, the latest kind of therapeutic specialty court, have sprung up in 80 jurisdictions since the concept was pioneered by Buffalo, N.Y., in 2008. Four Washington counties — Clark, Pierce, Spokane and Thurston — have such courts.
The comments posted on-line about The Seattle Times article are decidedly mixed, ranging from those who are opposed to separate treatment for veterans to those objecting to soldiers serving multiple tours of duty to those who believe that this type of court is a step in the right direction in addressing the problem. And then there’s the practical view: “Now that’s something which is long over due, is needed and will keep down incarceration costs and other costs of care.”