Veterans gets mental health help through court system

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) -  Veterans diagnosed with a persistent mental illness who commit a non-violent crime are getting some legal help.

For individuals who suffer from a mental illness and have to appear in court, New Horizons has a plan in place to help them. Now they are starting a similar program for veterans.

"If they are a threat to the public they need to be there, but if they aren't a threat, they need to be in treatment," Dr. Cindy Pattillo, who is the director of Veterans Court, says her organization works to help veterans with mental health issues -- whether they request her services, or she find them, "Veterans Court is a program where we go in to the Muscogee County Jail and look for people who have been incarcerated, who are charged with misdemeanors, and non-violent felonies who have a mental illness and who may also have an addiction problem."

Superior Court Judge John Allen told News Leader Nine, "That is veterans who have been arrested and we find out they have some under-lying mental health issues, we try to get them out of jail as quickly as possible into a treatment program and possibly connect them with benefits from the Veterans Administration."

The Veterans Court program helps military personnel of all ages and all backgrounds rehabilitate back into society after committing crimes.

"Having been a veteran, we think they deserve much better treatment than to be cast off and forgotten in that fashion. We try to seek them out and provide the assistance we think we can get for them," said Judge Allen.

Dr. Pattillo added the program is fairly new, but already they have seen great progress, "We expect the program to grow. In 10 months we've already served 28 veterans, we have 6 more waiting in jail, and I think next year we will probably serve 60 to 75."

As time goes on and the program grows, Veterans Court hopes to help even more veterans during the rehabilitation process.

Copyright 2011 WXTX. All rights reserved.