As the nation's first conference dedicated to Veterans Treatment Courts and justice-involved veterans gets underway in Washington, D.C., Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty said Monday he plans to launch a program to assist veterans "who have become entangled in the criminal justice system."
Here's the rest of his announcement:
Flaherty will put into motion the Deschutes County DA's Office Veterans Intervention Strategy (VIS) to appropriately address the combat related conditions of veterans who are reintegrating into their Central Oregon communities.
"Most veterans are strengthened by their military service, but combat exposure has left many of them with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and severe depression," Flaherty said. " One in five veterans return home with a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment. One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance abuse problem.
"Research now corroborates a long suspected causal link between substance abuse and combat-related mental illness. Left untreated, these mental health conditions often lead to a combat veteran's involvement with the criminal justice system."
Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) provide the best way forward for those veterans with diagnosed combat exposure conditions who find themselves charged with a criminal offense, and since 2010, the DA has encouraged and supported local efforts to establish a Deschutes County VTC and will continue to do so until it becomes a reality.
Further, the Deschutes County DA's Office joins the Oregon House of Representatives and Senate in our lawmakers' strong support of judicial initiatives to create VTCs in Deschutes County and throughout the State of Oregon.
The Oregon legislature recently modified Oregon law, directing that courts consider a veteran defendant's service when a criminal sentence is imposed.
VIS acknowledges the Legislature's trajectory and takes a proactive step by affording combat veterans an opportunity to contemporaneously resolve their pending criminal matters and address underlying diagnoses, like PTSD or TBI, that exist as a result of their service.
For certain lower-level person and non-person crimes, the DA's office will work in collaboration with its law enforcement partners, the Veterans Administration and local and national associations like Central Oregon Vet Center, Central Oregon Veterans Outreach (http://www.covo-us.org/) and Justice for Vets (http://www.justiceforvets.org) to identify a wide array of presently available assets and direct the implementation of those assets.
Flaherty will tailor VIS to the individual veteran's need, but the intervention strategy would typically include the coordination of (i) VA sponsored treatment programs, (ii) a partnership between a VIS participant and a veteran mentor and (iii) re-employment opportunities.
The ultimate objective of VIS is to return service members to their communities with a framework to address combat-induced conditions and without a criminal conviction.