Veterans Treatment Courts
One of the bills passed by the Missouri legislature this session, and awaiting signature by Governor Nixon, is Senate Bill 118, an act authorizing Missouri circuit courts to establish Veterans Treatment Courts, which would “provide an alternative for the judicial system to dispose of cases which stem from substance abuse or mental illness of military veterans or current military personnel.”
We have many serious concerns about this bill, which we would like to share with you. The bill is only three printed pages, and is mostly vague about how these courts would be implemented.
This has a similarity to existing Drug Treatment Courts, which currently cost $6,190 per case. The Fiscal Note accompanying this bill states that if a circuit court decides to create a veterans treatment court, they will be able to do so utilizing existing resources, and would make referrals for substance abuse or mental health treatment to existing Federal level programs or community-based treatment programs; therefore they assume the proposal would not create any additional funding concerns. As with other government bureaucracies, we have doubts about the veracity in practice of “no additional funding needed.”
Mental health courts are facilities established to deal with arrests for misdemeanors or non-violent felonies. Rather than allowing the guilty parties to take responsibility for their crimes, they are diverted to a psychiatric treatment center on the premise that they suffer from “mental illness” which will respond positively to antipsychotic drugs and that psychiatric treatment will stop the criminal behavior. There is no evidence that supports this false premise. It is another form of coercive “community mental health treatment.”
In a review of 20 mental health courts, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law found that these courts “may function as a coercive agent – in many ways similar to the controversial intervention, outpatient commitment – compelling an individual to participate in treatment under threat of court sanctions. However, the services available to the individual may be only those offered by a system that has already failed to help. Too many public mental health systems offer little more than medication.”
“A veterans treatment court shall combine judicial supervision, drug testing, and substance abuse and mental health treatment to participants who have served or are currently serving the United States armed forces, including members of the reserves, national guard, or state guard.”
First of all, this is degrading to veterans, assuming they are mental cases needing psychiatric treatment, and labeling them for life.
“Any statement made by a participant as part of participation in the veterans treatment court program, or any report made by the staff of the program, shall not be admissible as evidence against the participant in any criminal, juvenile, or civil proceeding.”
This totally removes individual responsibility and accountability for their criminal actions from the participating veterans.
Any circuit court, or combination of circuit courts, can establish their own conditions and rules for these veterans treatment courts. This inconsistency could lead not only to redundant and costly efforts, but also to discrimination as a result of differing implementations between courts.
All records and reports relevant to a veteran’s treatment program must be treated as closed records, “not to be disclosed to any person outside of the veterans treatment court.” This would make it difficult if not impossible for a veteran harmed by such a treatment program to have any legal recourse for damages.
As we already have a criminal probation system in place, we can only assume that this bill is a shameless attempt by the psychiatric industry to troll for more patients from the ranks of troubled veterans.
If you share these feelings about Governor Nixon signing this bill into law, now is the time to contact him with your concerns and suggest that he veto it.
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