Portman & Stratton support federal grants for veterans treatment courts

For veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, going to jail can be a major roadblock in their recovery. Yet, for many who turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate, that’s exactly where they end up.

“I’m a stubborn person,” said Ryan Ellison, who did a tour in Iraq while in the Army. “ You send me to jail and all you’re doing is sending me back to the jungle. All these coping skills I’ve learned, they go out the window. I’m the type of person that you put me in there and all hell breaks loose.”

Speaking with U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, at a roundtable discussion at the American Legion in Worthington on Monday, Ellison, 31, of Victorian Village, said going through Veterans Treatment Court was one of the best things for him.

“They never gave up on me, and that’s something that put me in the right direction,” he said.

The court is a two-year program that offers mental health and substance abuse treatment to veterans as an alternative to incarceration. Those veterans also have to make regular court appearances and are subject to random drug testing.

Ohio currently has 17 Veterans Treatment Courts, but Portman said he hopes to boost that figure through a bill he helped co-sponsor a year ago.

image2Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton (Retired), Co-Chairman of the Ohio Attorney General’s Task Force on Criminal Justice & Mental Illness, which has a Veterans Treatment Court and Military Affairs Subcommittee,  gives Ohio Senator Rob Portman and the audience of veterans and veterans organizations background on Ohio’s Veterans Treatment Courts and supports passage of the bill.  

The bill, known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, would offer grants to programs that aim to combat substance abuse. One section of the bill would specifically offer grants for Veterans Treatment Courts.

The bill passed through committee hearings unanimously last week.

“I think we should get it on the house floor relatively soon and with the support it has from both sides, I think we can get it on the President’s desk,” he said.

Portman said meeting with some of the veterans that had been through the court further enforced his view on the program’s effectiveness.

“There is hope and there is a way out,” he said. “Everybody’s different but there is the right program for you.”

— William T. Perkins is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps Statehouse News Bureau.