Vets facing charges have a path back to mainstream under Allen law
Veterans, and active military members, whose run-ins with the law can be traced to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other psychological maladies resulting from in-service experiences, now have a chance at redemption without the rigors of the criminal justice system.
Burlington County Senator Diane Allen (R-7)'s Veterans Diversion Program was enacted Monday by Governor Chris Christie. The bill moves active-duty and ex-military members away from courts, and toward access to treatment, as soon as possible after encounters with law enforcement.
The goal is to increase opportunities for testing, counseling, treatment and case management related to mental health concerns, substance abuse and health problems.
The measure allows judges to postpone hearings during mental health intervention services for those deemed eligible. If progress is demonstrable after six months, to the satisfaction of prosecutors, and all terms of the related agreements are met, prosecutors can move to dismiss charges.
According to Allen, the bill improves on the Veterans Assistance Project, used by courts to identify prospective veterans and offer access to support services. She contends that the effectiveness of referrals is potentially blunted if there's no clear path to access.
"Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other combat-related conditions are very serious and many returning veterans face a long road of recovery ahead of them," the Senator said in a prepared comment.
"We need to help them along on that road by supporting them with every available resource. One way we can do that is give them chance to get the treatment they need rather than just throw them in jail."
On a separate front, a portion of New Jersey's federal housing subsidies are now set aside for veterans, under a law crafted by Senator Chris Connors and Assembly members Brian Rumpf and DiAnne Gove (R-9). See that, and other topics, in our video below.