A community conversation about veterans, mental health, the law

Back in October, I wrote in this column about the “Veterans Court.” At the time, I indicated that “The Nashua Veterans Court has been operating since 2014 and began as an outgrowth of our Mental Health Court. The basic premise is really quite simple, but also profound: combat veterans, because of their experiences, are a unique grouping in our society, with their own particular needs, and a specialized court which provides access to treatment, accountability and structure will invariably be more effective than traditional incarceration and punishment. Because of what they have gone through in their service, half of veterans returning from overseas combat deployment suffer with various mental health issues. One in six will struggle with a substance use disorder; and one in five will suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder. These rates far exceed those of other groups and the population at large, so therefore it also makes sense to think differently about working with veterans who might end up breaking the law and being convicted of a crime. In fact, there are approximately 700,000 veterans in the judicial system today. That’s exactly where the Veterans Court comes in.”

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