Marking Veterans Day, U.S. Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Jeff Denham (R-CA) introduced bipartisan legislation to enhance state and local veterans treatment court programs that support the unique needs of veterans who find themselves in the criminal justice system.

After serving our country, too many veterans are experiencing mental health issues, substance abuse, and homelessness, which can often land them in the criminal justice system. Veterans treatment courts provide the counseling, care, and support veterans need to help address these challenges and more successfully transition to civilian life.

"We owe our veterans the very best care and service, but too often their unique needs and challenges are not met by the traditional criminal justice system," said Rep. Crist. "By bringing federal resources to this issue, we can help more veterans in difficult situations get back on their feet and thrive."

"With Veterans Day on the horizon, it is important to take this opportunity to not only thank our veterans, but also take steps toward giving back to those who have worn the cloth of this nation," said Rep. Denham. "Making it easier to set up veteran treatment courts across the nation will help keep veterans in crisis out of the criminal justice system and give them the help they need and deserve."

The Veterans Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2017 establishes a program within the Department of Justice, in coordination with the VA, to provide grants, training, and technical assistance to help state, local, and tribal governments develop and maintain veterans treatment courts. Currently, these programs are supported by dedicated individuals in law enforcement, the judicial system, the legal community, VA officials, Veterans Service Organizations, and other community organizations.

The bill would provide federal resources for the establishment of new treatment courts. The first veterans treatment court was established in Buffalo, New York in 2008. Since that time, additional courts have been successfully adopted in state and local courts throughout Florida and the nation.  In 2013, Florida's 6th Judicial Circuit Court created a veterans unit to address the unique needs of those in Pinellas and Pasco counties, home to over 130,000 veterans.

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