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Senate Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2014 04:26 PM
From: Senator Rob Teplitz
To: All Senate members
Subject: Veterans Treatment Courts
In the near future, I plan to again introduce legislation that would establish a veterans court in those counties in Pennsylvania that do not currently have one. Lackawanna County was the first county to establish a veterans court in November 2009 and sixteen counties have followed their lead, but 50 counties have not yet established a veterans court. These courts assist veterans charged with nonviolent crimes who are struggling with addiction, mental illness or co-occurring disorders.

Because a veterans court judge handles numerous veterans’ cases and is supported by a strong, interdisciplinary team, the judge is in a much better position to exercise discretion and effectively respond to a veteran than a judge who only occasionally hears a case involving a veteran defendant. The veterans court provides support and guidance from fellow veterans and those who participate in the court program are supervised by specialized probation officers and receive treatment and support from the Veterans’ Administration to address the underlying problems that are often caused by post-traumatic stress disorders.

One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment, and one in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffers from a substance abuse issue. Research has shown us that there is a link between substance abuse and combat-related mental illness, and left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can lead directly to involvement in the criminal justice system.

With nearly one million veterans, Pennsylvania has the fifth largest population of veterans in the country. We owe it to our veterans to provide the specialized support and treatment they need after serving their country so courageously.

This legislation was introduced during the 2013-2014 legislative session as SB 1411 and was co-sponsored by Senators Brewster, Yudichak, Farnese, Wozniak, Costa, Vulakovich, Smith, Fontana, and Hughes.

I urge you to support our veterans and co-sponsor this very important piece of legislation.

Introduced as SB517