Buffalo Veterans Court


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Judge Robert Russell
Buffalo NY City Court
Hank Pirowski
COURTS Program

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  • Nearly a third of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who received care from Veterans Affairs between 2001 and 2005 were diagnosed with mental health or psychosocial ills, a study published Monday has concluded. They looked at data from 103,788 veterans; about 13 percent of them women, 54 percent under age 30, nearly a third minorities and nearly half veterans of the National Guard or Reserves. Of the total, 32,010 (31 percent) were diagnosed with mental health and/or psychosocial problems, including 25,658 who received mental health diagnoses. More than half (56 percent) were diagnosed with two or more disorders. (Watch how the wars are blamed for an "epidemic" of mental disorders) Post-traumatic stress disorder was the most common disorder, with the 13,205 veterans who got the diagnosis accounting for more than half (52 percent) of mental health diagnoses. Others included anxiety disorder (24 percent), adjustment disorder (24 percent), depression (20 percent) and substance abuse disorder (20 percent). Of all veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan who sought VA services, post-traumatic stress disorder affected 13 percent, the study said. That's slightly less than the 15.2 percent tallied for veterans of the Vietnam War, but far above the 3.5 percent reported in the general population. -- the VA estimates that nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And nearly 400,000   experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country. According to the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Urban Institute, 1999), veterans account for 23% of all homeless people in America.  
  • Buffalo Veterans Court

    1. 1. Buffalo Veterans’ Treatment Court Judge Robert T. Russell Presiding Veterans’ Treatment Court Judge Erie County & Buffalo City Courts Jack O’Connor Donna Leigh Hank Pirowski Coordinator, Veteran Mentors Social Work Executive Project Director
    2. 2. Buffalo’s Experience :Veterans Tx Court <ul><li>Treatment Court Background-Drug & Mental Health Courts </li></ul><ul><li>Veterans seen in Treatment Courts </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitation by fellow Veterans </li></ul><ul><li>Visit to Buffalo Veterans Hospital Advisory Board, (WNY) V.A. Director Michael Finnegan </li></ul><ul><li>Community forums with Veterans Health Care, the Court and Community Behavioral Health Care Providers-Keynote Speaker Deputy Under Secretary William Feeley </li></ul>
    3. 4. Veterans Treatment Court? <ul><li>The “ Buffalo Veteran’s Treatment Court is a collaborative effort between the W.N.Y. Veterans Project, Buffalo Police Department, The Buffalo Veteran’s Administration Health Care System, The Buffalo Criminal Courts, The Buffalo Drug and Mental Health Treatment Courts, Erie County Pre-trial Services and the C.O.U.R.T.S Program- </li></ul><ul><li>( C ourt O utreach U nit: R eferral and T reatment S ervice). </li></ul>
    4. 5. Our Mission To successfully habilitate veterans by diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them with the tools they need in order to lead a productive and law-abiding lifestyle. Our Goal Our program’s goal is to reduce the veterans’ inappropriate behavior while helping them turn their lives around. We will find them, offer them assistance, assess their needs, manage their care and help them solve their problems.
    5. 6. Our Objective To provide Veterans with substance abuse, alcoholism and mental health treatment coupled with academic/vocational skills improvement, while actively assisting with residential, outpatient and/or transitional services leading to job placement and job retention.
    6. 7. OPERATION <ul><li>Buffalo’s Veterans Treatment Court diverts eligible veteran-defendants with substance dependency and/or mental illness charged with typically felony or misdemeanor non-violent criminal offense, to a specialized criminal court docket. </li></ul>
    7. 8. EARLY IDENTIFICATION <ul><li>Veterans are identified through evidence based screening and assessments. They voluntarily participate in a judicially supervised treatment plan that a team of court staff, veteran health care professionals, veteran peer mentors, AOD health care professionals and mental health professionals develop with the veteran. </li></ul>
    8. 9. Unique Components <ul><li>Court entirely of Veterans </li></ul><ul><li>In Court: Veterans Health Care Worker(s) </li></ul><ul><li>Veteran Mentors </li></ul><ul><li>Therapeutic Environment </li></ul><ul><li>Hybrid Drug & Mental Health Court </li></ul>
    9. 10. V.A. Health Care Worker <ul><li>DONNA LEIGH , Social Work Executive Formerly-(SATS.) Tel # 716-862-3100. Tamekia Slaughter, Social Worker </li></ul><ul><li>Liaison </li></ul><ul><li>Obtaining VA Releases of Information </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitating VA linkages for services </li></ul><ul><li>Coordinating and providing VA status report regarding Tx, toxs, appointments, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Case management & crisis management </li></ul>
    10. 11. FEDERAL OFFICE OF VETERANS BENEFIT AFFAIRS <ul><li>Steven Doherty and Timothy Dowell , Veteran Service Representatives </li></ul><ul><li>Liaison </li></ul><ul><li>Obtaining VA Releases of Information </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitate processing or review of Pension Disability Benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Process review of potential errors or corrections on veterans DD214 </li></ul>
    11. 12. Veteran Mentors “ Leave no one behind”
    12. 14. Veteran Mentors Role <ul><li>Coach </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitator </li></ul><ul><li>Advisor </li></ul><ul><li>Sponsor </li></ul><ul><li>Support </li></ul>
    13. 15. KEY COMPONENTS <ul><li>Key Components adapted from Drug Treatment and Mental Health Treatment Courts </li></ul>
    14. 16. <ul><li>“ To put it bluntly, we know that drug courts outperform virtually all other strategies that have been attempted for drug-involved offenders.” </li></ul><ul><li>Marlowe, DeMatteo, Festinger (2003) </li></ul>Lessons Learned From Drug Court
    15. 17. Cost Benefit of Drug Court Drug Courts Save Tax Dollars NY: $254 million saved CA: $43 million saved TX: $9.43 savings for every $1 spent OR: $10 savings for every $1 spent WA: Saved $6,779 per drug court client
    16. 18. National Resolutions <ul><li>The National District Attorneys Association </li></ul><ul><li>The National Sheriffs Association </li></ul><ul><li>International Association of Chiefs of Police </li></ul><ul><li>The National Association of County Organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Governors Highway Safety Association </li></ul><ul><li>Mothers Against Drunk Driving </li></ul>
    17. 19. ‘‘ Services, Education, and Rehabilitation for Veterans Act’’ or the ‘‘SERV Act’’. <ul><li>S. 3379: Introduced July 31, 2008 by Senators KERRY (MA.), Ms. MURKOWSKI (AK) and Mr. DURBIN (IL.), which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary </li></ul><ul><li>H. R. 7149: Introduced SEPTEMBER 26 , 2008 by Congresspersons KENNEDY (R.I.), Mr. HIGGINS (N.Y.), and Ms. SUTTON (OH.) which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. </li></ul><ul><li>-Grants for Veterans Treatment Courts- </li></ul>
    18. 20. CONTACT INFORMATION <ul><li>JUDGE ROBERT RUSSELL </li></ul><ul><li>716-845-2623 </li></ul><ul><li>JACK O’CONNOR, Mentor Coor. </li></ul><ul><li>716-858-7345 </li></ul><ul><li>DONNA LEIGH, VA SWE </li></ul><ul><li>716-862-3100 </li></ul><ul><li>HANK PIROWSKI, Project Director </li></ul><ul><li>716-845-2695 </li></ul>
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