King County's court for veterans is money well spent
King County's special court for veterans is a welcome addition to the mental-health and drug courts already established by the county.
Seattle Times Editorial
KING County joined the ranks Thursday of jurisdictions with a special court for veterans — a welcome addition to the mental-health and drug courts already established by the county.
The new court is for veterans in the criminal-justice system because of nonviolent, nonweapons misdemeanors. It is a more efficient way to get veterans into mental-health or chemical-dependency treatment programs, often already available through the Department of Veterans Affairs or other federal programs.
The National Association of Drug Court Professionals reports that one in six veterans returning from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has a substance-abuse problem and one-in-five has symptoms of a mental disorder or cognitive impairment, including post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
The one-year pilot program falls within the $2.1 million budget for the county's mental-health courts. The estimated $155,000 needed for the veterans court in 2013 will come from the Veterans and Human Services Levy renewed in 2011, said County Councilmember Bob Ferguson, the prime sponsor of the ordinance establishing the new court.
That would be money well spent. Other jurisdictions with veterans courts report a low recidivism rate for those in programs where successful participation in treatment plans is linked to dismissed charges or reduced sentences.
"My hopes for the court are that it will assist veterans to avoid returning to the criminal court system and will deal with their unique challenges," Ferguson said. "I hope it will help turn their lives around, keep communities safe and save taxpayers money."
Those are hopes worth realizing.