SAN DIEGO — A courtroom that serves only veterans opened its doors last month, making San Diego a provider of the seventh Veteran’s Treatment Court in the state.
When a person who enters the criminal court system as a defendant is identified as a veteran, they will have their case heard in Department 57 by San Diego County Superior Court Judge Roger W. Krauel.
The National Association of Drug Court Professionals, or NADCP, calls the Veterans Treatment Court a hybrid between drug courts and mental health courts because they follow the drug court model to serve veterans who struggle with issues such as addictions or serious mental illness, and promote sobriety, recovery and stability.
“Veterans may benefit from interventions, and their military service may be a contributing factor to why they are there,” said Chris Deutch, spokesman for NADCP.
He said an example would be a veteran who had a flashback and got violent at a bar.
He also said that in order for a case to be heard in the treatment court, that the charges did not need to be drug or alcohol related.
“Some are only nonviolent charges and some are case by case,” he said.
The members who make up the team that handles the case must all feel comfortable with the case, Deutch said.
Deputy District Attorney George Loyd is one of several people who worked to bring the Veterans Treatment Court to San Diego, and a member on the team who represents the district attorney’s office.
Loyd said there are currently nine team members who make up the collaborative court of treatment providers and are from a variety of agencies such as the sheriff’s department, probation department, defense bar and veteran’s administration.
The treatment court is held every other Friday.
“So far it’s a great program,” he said.
“San Diego has the highest concentration of veterans within any jurisdiction in the country,” he said.
He said that a majority of the people who visit one of the military bases in the county end up liking the area and staying here.
“We have seen an increase in the numbers of veterans affected by PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and other mental health issues,” Loyd said.
The specialized court is a way to address those issues and protect the community by addressing them, he said.
The main reason the court is important is because it’s a way to fight crime if problems are addressed right away, he said.