A bill (A.5719-A) sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandy Galef was passed by the Assembly yesterday to expand the availability of Veterans Treatment Courts in the state and authorize the transfer of qualified cases from a criminal court in a county that does not have a VTC to a VTC in an adjoining county.
When veterans return home from service their transition to civilian life can be marked by depression, other forms of mental illness, and substance abuse. New York started the nation’s first VTC in 2008 to support these veterans, who, suffering from trauma, sometimes engage in low level criminal activity. Upon implementation, Assemblywoman Galef’s bill will immediately and dramatically increase the number of counties in which VTCs are located and help provide all veterans in the state with access to such courts. To date there are 30 VTCs in New York State.
VTCs support veterans struggling to adjust to everyday life by providing a structured environment familiar to members of the armed forces. They are also staffed with individuals who are trained in community service skills as well as being sensitive to the needs of veterans. Volunteer veteran mentors also assist in the courts.
Assemblywoman Galef said, “I am proud to sponsor this important legislation that provides greater access to VTCs across our state. Many veterans who suffer from depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other mental health problems as a result of their service to our country benefit greatly from VTCs in preventing offenses from spiraling into incarceration or deeper legal and health-related problems.”