Sinema-backed Bill to Expand Access to Treatment, Support for Veterans Passes House

Veterans Treatment Courts help vets address mental health, other issues and get back on their feet

A bill cosponsored by Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09) to help more veterans get access to mental health services through Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) today passed the House of Representatives. VTCs are specialized courts designed to serve veterans when they enter the criminal justice process. These courts help veterans access treatment and address challenges such as post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. The bill helps VTCs hire desperately needed veterans justice outreach specialists (VJOs), who help veterans throughout their interactions with the courts.

“The men and women who serve our country deserve access to mental health treatment when they need it,” said Congresswoman Sinema. “Veterans treatment courts give veterans who enter the justice system a second chance by helping heal the invisible injuries too many of our servicemembers have sustained defending our country. This bill is an important step towards ensuring every veteran receives the mental health care he or she needs.”

“I applaud Congresswoman Sinema for her work to pass this bill and support Arizona veterans by hiring much-needed Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists. The number of Veterans Treatment Courts is growing across the nation, and it’s critical that they are properly staffed. Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists are the face of the VA for justice-involved veterans.  Their professionalism and caring attitude toward these veterans make all the difference in how these veterans engage in their treatment programs. The VJOs are crucial to the success of the court and the veterans participating in that court,” 
said retired Brigadier General Gregg Maxon, a prominent Arizona veterans court advocate.

“Thank you Congresswoman Sinema and other co-sponsors of this important legislation.  We look forward to swift passage of HR 2147, the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act. Veterans Treatment Courts should be expanded throughout the U.S., and we need to add Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists to provide the support and follow-up to ensure ongoing success for all veterans in the program. Veterans Treatment Court is highly successful in Arizona, drastically reducing recidivism rates for veterans in the program, directing veterans into appropriate mental and physical healthcare as needed, and opening the door to an array of services within the veterans support system,” said Terry Araman, Director of Unified Arizona Veterans.

The Sinema-supported legislation would require the VA to hire additional Veteran Justice Outreach Specialists, licensed social workers who connect veterans with VA services and treatment, and monitor veterans’ progress through the system. Without the specialists, existing VTCs cannot meet current demand or expand to new areas.

There are currently 15 veterans treatment courts operating in Arizona. The Phoenix program, launched in 2012, has a low recidivism rate of four percent, compared to the statewide average of 39 percent.