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Thomas Announces Intent to Establish Veterans Treatment Court

For Immediate Release:

Illinois Veterans and Servicemembers Court Treatment Act

With little fanfare and relatively unnoticed locally, the Governor signed an Amendment to the 2010 Illinois Veterans and Servicemembers Court Treatment Act last fall, which mandates all counties have an established “veterans court” by January 1, 2018.

Despite this mandate, very little has taken place to advance the purpose of this law.

Many of our veterans have seen and endured life-altering, unimaginable stresses and images that cannot be forgotten, all in defense of OUR families, Country and freedom.

The preamble of the Act reads: “The General Assembly recognizes that veterans and active, Reserve and National Guard servicemembers have provided or are currently providing an invaluable service to our country. In so doing, some may suffer the effects of, including but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression and may also suffer drug and alcohol dependency or addiction and co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse problems….”

The Act provides veterans courts can establish specialized mental health and treatment programs, together with peer counseling and support. Mentors, including other veterans in our community, can serve as court-appointed mentors to provide additional support to the veteran and the veteran’s family. Inter-agency support, including the VA, job training, and counseling will all work together to provide the veteran with comprehensive treatment and reduced recidivism.

Successful completion of the program allows the veteran to have the charges dismissed against him without having a conviction on his/her record. This allows the veteran to obtain and/or maintain employment which may not be possible with a criminal conviction.

Crimes of violence and non-probationable offenses are excluded from eligibility.

As resident judge, implementation of this program would be a top priority and passion for me. I cannot think of a worthier group of men and women to receive our assistance to protect and reestablish their lives, when they have already done so for each of us. The factors contributing to their situation are unique and so must their treatment.

Intergovernmental Agreements to pool resources of Counties in the same circuit appear permissible under the Act, so the veterans court can cover more than one county. This will allow for cost-sharing and better economies of scale.

As with any program of this magnitude, the Court would need help from local agencies, veterans, treatment providers, and citizens to ensure the needs of our veterans are being met successfully.

Furthermore, guidance from nearby Sangamon County can be sought, where State’s Attorney John Milhiser, Judge Ryan Cadigan, and Judge Pete Cavanaugh have all worked to implement a successful veterans court and drug court.
We can scale established models with modification to fit our community’s needs so this may be up and going without unnecessary delay.

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