The month of May has some great health observances, and one that is very dear to Runwell’s heart is National Drug Court Month. Each year, Runwell awards grants to both drug courts and veteran treatment courts in an effort to help them maintain their essential role in our communities, helping to save lives.
About 20 years ago, drug courts evolved out of a necessity to find a solution-based approach to the influx of substance abusing offenders in the court system. This model, proven as the most successful, cost effective and scientifically validated tool to deal with substance abuse in the criminal justice system, has shown drastic positive effects on substance abuse, crime and related consequences on the individual, family and community.
Veteran treatment courts, first established in 2008, are hybrid drug and mental health courts. While they promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated effort with traditional partners in drug and mental health courts, veteran treatment courts also involve several veteran organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, the Veterans Benefits Administration, state departments of veteran affairs, volunteer veteran mentors, veterans and veterans family support organizations. The involvement of these additional organizations provides veterans with mentors and groups that have military experience to which they can relate.
While many veterans return home strengthened by their service, many others struggle with issues that make it difficult for them to readjust to life outside the military, ranging from traumatic brain injuries to family strife and unemployment, to mental illnesses such as substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (recently tied to accelerated aging). Mental health disorders, left untreated can lead to homelessness and can also directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system. Today, an estimated 60 percent of the 140,000 veterans in prison suffer from a substance abuse problem, and of the 130,000 homeless veterans, 70 percent suffer from a substance abuse or mental illness problem.
Justice for Vets is an organization that works to combat veterans cycling through the criminal justice system with untreated mental illnesses and painful side effects from traumatic brain injuries and other physical ailments suffered. By keeping out of jail and giving them the tools they need to live again as productive citizens, they are giving them the care they earned while serving our country, and their impact has saved lives.
As research continues to draw a link between substance abuse and combat-related mental illness, it is apparent that many veterans are in need of treatment to reestablish quality of life. You can help Justice for Vets make a difference. Consider joining a Runwell event to benefit Justice for Vets in honor of Drug Court Month, or better yet, get a team of friends and family together to support their mission. Get healthy for you while helping others do the same.
Runwell Founder, Linda Quirk, recently attended a Justice for Vets graduation in Jacksonville, FL. Pictured above with Melissa Fitzgerald, Justice for Vets Senior Director.