Vets need help, not prison

Written by Eric on January 22, 2009 in: Uncategorized |

Court officials are beginning to recognize a need to treat these soldiers and veterans suf-fering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury before they get caught up in a cycle of crime.
A coalition of legal officials and advocates for veterans in Maricopa County, Ariz., is con-sidering setting up a special court that would provide vets with the help they need to cope. Buffalo, N.Y., and Orange County, Calif., have launched similar specialty courts.
The courts’ goal: Keeping the troubled vets out of the criminal justice cycle. That could mean identifying veterans early in the system, connecting them to services the government already provides and linking the vets to a support network.
“One of the things that offended me is seeing a veteran who is self-medicating with alcohol or marijuana or meth and going to court and standing side-by-side with some gangbanger or lifetime criminal and being treated the same as them,” said Billy Little, an attorney and re-tired Air Force colonel. “I thought they deserved better than that.”
Many cities today have diversion programs that are designed to keep people in need of help — often alcoholics or drug addicts — out of the courts, provided they receive the treat-ment that they need.
With the growing number of combat vets suffering from PTSD, TBI or depression — one in three, according to the Rand Corp. in what it called a “conservative estimate” — it makes a lot of sense to create special courts for folks with these disorders. And it’s only fair to help these vets get the treatment they deserve — rather than a prison term.

Obama shows he cares about vets

Written by Eric on January 7, 2009 in: Uncategorized |

Matt Kuntz of Helena, one of the major figures in Faces of Combat, is one of 18 “everyday Americans” selected to join President-elect Barack Obama on a Whistle Stop Tour to the nation’s capital on the Saturday before Inauguration Day.

Kuntz was chosen for his efforts in helping the mentally ill after his stepbrother Chris Dana committed suicide after returning from combat and being kicked out of the Natiopnal Guard with a less-than-honorable discharge. His work has led to changes in the way the Montana National Guard screens returning soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder — and that was the focus of Faces of Combat.

A former Army officer and attorney who is now head of the Montana office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Kuntz met with Obama in Billings last fall as the Illinois senator was heading to Denver to accept the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention. Kuntz gave him a copy of Faces of Combat, which the president-elect promised to read. A few days later, in a nationally televised speech fromn Columbia University, Obama talked abolut ways in which the Montana National Guard had improved mental health services for its returning combat vets and referred to it as a national model.

Kuntz will fly to Philadelphia with his wife a few days before the Jan. 20 inauguration. They will travel by train with Obama to Washington, D.C. and then attend the inaugural ball.