Retired Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton Becomes President Emeritus of OPERATION LEGAL HELP OHIO

The first president – and driving force behind OLHO – is Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton. The organization voted to create the position of president emeritus in recognition of her significant contributions to the success of the organization and to Ohio’s Veteran community. 

Read the entire OPERATION LEGAL HELP OHIO Update Here:

Retired Ohio Justice Stratton urges law students to help mentally ill

Retired Ohio Justice Stratton urges law students to help mentally ill 

ADA — In many ways, Evelyn Stratton believes she is doing more for society as a retired Ohio Supreme Court justice than she did on the state’s highest court. She has the free time to do what she wants and dedicate her life to causes for which she has a passion. On Friday, she spoke at a symposium at Ohio Northern University’s law school urging soon-to-be lawyers to get involved in helping people with mental illness and veterans who end up in the criminal justice system due to a mental illness.

“I have never looked back. I have never regretted it,” she said of her decision to leave the high court.

Stratton said she learned early in her career as a common pleas judge that courts, jails and prisons did not have a way to effectively help people with mental illness. “I thought if I put people in jail, they would get some treatment in jail, so that’s what I did,” she said. “There was this huge disconnect.” She quickly found out she was wrong.

“Jail has no idea how to treat them other than to isolate them,” she said.

When she was on the state’s highest court, she formed a committee to look at mental health problems of people coming before the courts in Ohio. Without funding and few people supporting her, she worked to get others involved.

Stratton and others quickly found out there were thousands of people repeatedly coming before the courts because of the same problem. The simple idea of treating that problem to keep them from committing new crimes is one she and others embraced.

“We did that step by step, inch by inch, piece by piece, advocate by advocate, person by person,” she said.

Soon, mental health courts, a special program in common pleas courts in Ohio, soon began to pop up across the state. Judges, probation officers, police and others worked to form teams to help defendants with mental illness who came before the courts, she said.

“The judge works as a catalyst and gets people talking and gets people collaborating,” she said.

Someone who is mentally ill and commits crime may be homeless. Someone with the court program works on getting that person a place to stay while another person works on getting the defendant treatment for the mental illness, she said.

Along the way, someone suggested starting a program at common pleas courts to help veterans. The Veterans Justice Outreach program was created. It works the same as a mental health court by helping veterans find services that help them with their problems, she said.

Ohio has 900,000 veterans, making it the state with the fifth largest veteran population in the country, she said.

Stratton urged law students to help out anyway they can especially when they become lawyers. Help people with mental illness or veterans at no cost, she said, as an example. But she also said there are little things they can do such as mowing a veteran’s lawn who cannot do it himself, that can make a big difference.

“Start somewhere,” she said.

Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Law Synopsis

Synopsis of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Law legal document

Editor’s Note: Mary Ellen Salzano, Founder and Facilitator at California Statewide Collaborative for our Military and Families, has provided this synopsis of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Law legal document.

This synopsis was prepared by Dr. Ingrid Herrera-Yee, Clinical and Research Psychologist/Military Suicide Research Consortium, Armed Forces Insurance 2014 National Guard Spouse of the Year; and Founder and President of Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians (MSBHC).

Dr. Ingrid Herrera-Yee is a Board Member at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), Military Spouses of Strength, Military Mental Health Project and a member of the National Guard Suicide and Resiliency Council, and the National Guard Family Advisory Council among others.

She has also been a special contributor to NBC News, Military Times, Air Force Times, Military Spouse Magazine and BuzzFeed. She spends her free time mentoring spouses through eMentor and Joining 2 of 37 Forces.

Currently, Dr. Herrera-Yee is working as a research psychologist assessing for suicide risk among active duty service members. Dr. Herrera-Yee received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and was a Clinical Fellow at Harvard University.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act:

AN ACT to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to:

1. Provide for the conduct of annual evaluations of mental health care and suicide prevention programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

2. Require a pilot program on loan repayment for psychiatrists who agree to serve in the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.


EACH Evaluation of the Mental Health Care and Suicide Prevention Programs at the VA should:

1. Happen AT LEAST once a year, starting no later than 6 months after identifying contractor with a first report no later than December 1, 2018, and each year thereafter.

2. Use metrics that are common among, and useful for, practitioners in the field of mental health care and suicide prevention.

3. Identify the most effective mental health care and suicide prevention programs conducted by the Secretary, including such programs conducted at a Center of Excellence.

4. Measure the satisfaction of patients with respect to the care provided under each such program.

5. Propose best practices for caring for individuals who suffer from mental health disorders or are at risk of suicide, including such practices conducted or suggested by other departments or agencies of the Federal Government, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services.

6. Identify the cost-effectiveness of each program each fiscal year.

7. HAS TO BE conducted by an INDEPENDENT third party unaffiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

8. No later than September 30 of 2016 and 2017, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in coordination the contractor assigned, will submit an interim report on the mental health care and suicide prevention programs that includes a description of the program, the number of veterans served by the program, the budget of the program, the number of full-time equivalent employees assigned to the program, whether veterans may repeat participation in the program or participate in the program in addition to other similar programs, and any study results or research published regarding the efficacy of the program.

9. Publication of Internet website to provide information regarding mental health care services. The Internet website will provide to veterans information regarding all of the mental health care services available in the Veteran Integrated Service Network (VISN) including the name and contact information of each social work office; the name and contact information of each mental health clinic; and a list of appropriate staff.


The Secretary of Veterans Affairs will carry out a pilot program to repay loans of individuals that financed their education relating to psychiatric medicine, including education leading to a degree of doctor of medicine; or a degree of doctor of osteopathy; and were obtained from any of the following: A governmental entity; a private financial institution; a school; any other authorized entity as determined by the Secretary.

An individual eligible for participation in the pilot program is an individual who:

1. Either is licensed or eligible for licensure to practice psychiatric medicine in the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs; OR

2. Is enrolled in the final year of a residency program leading to a specialty qualification in psychiatric medicine that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education; AND demonstrates a commitment to a long-term career as a psychiatrist in the Veterans Health Administration, as determined by the Secretary.

The Secretary will select not less than 10 individuals to participate in the pilot program for each year and will enter into an agreement in which such individual agrees to serve a period of 2 or more years of obligated service for the VA in the field of psychiatric medicine.

For each year of obligated service that an individual who is participating in the pilot program agrees to serve, the Secretary may pay not more than $30,000 in loan repayment on behalf of such individual.


The Secretary of Veterans Affairs will establish a pilot program to assist veterans transitioning from serving on active duty and to improve the access of veterans to mental health services.

The Secretary will carry out the pilot program at no less than FIVE Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) that have a large population of veterans who:

1. Served in the reserve components of the Armed Forces; OR

2. Are transitioning into communities with an established population of veterans after having recently separated from the Armed Forces.

The pilot program at each VISN will include a community oriented veteran peer support network that:

1. Is carried out in partnership with an entity with experience in peer support programs.

2. Establishes peer support training guidelines.

3. Develops a network of veteran peer support counselors to meet the demands of the communities in the VISN.

4. Conducts training of veteran peer support counselors.

With respect to one medical center selected by the Secretary in each such VISN:

1. It has a designated peer support specialist who acts as a liaison to the community oriented veteran peer network.

2. It has a certified mental health professional designated as the community oriented veteran peer network mentor.

3. It is readily available to veterans, including pursuant to the VISN cooperating and working with State and local governments and appropriate entities.

Including a community outreach team for each medical center selected by the Secretary that:

1. Assists veterans transitioning into communities.

2. Establishes a veteran transition advisory group to facilitate outreach activities.

3. Includes the participation of appropriate community organizations, State and local governments, colleges and universities, chambers of commerce and other local business organizations, and organizations that provide legal aid or advice.

4. Coordinates with the VISN regarding the VISN carrying out an annual mental health summit to assess the status of veteran mental health care in the community and to develop new or innovative means to provide mental health services to veterans.

No later than 18 months after the date on which the pilot program commences, the Secretary will submit a report on the pilot program.

The report will include:

1. A full description of the peer support model implemented under the pilot program, participation data, and data pertaining to past and current mental health related hospitalizations and fatalities.

2. Recommendations on implementing peer support networks throughout the Department.

3. Whether the mental health resources made available under the pilot program for members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces is effective.

4. A full description of the activities and effectiveness of community outreach coordinating teams under the pilot program, including partnerships that have been established with appropriate entities. The authority of the Secretary to carry out the pilot program will terminate on the date that is 3 years after the date on which the pilot program commences.


The Secretary of Veterans Affairs may collaborate with non-profit mental health organizations to prevent suicide among veterans as follows:

1. To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of suicide prevention efforts carried out by the Secretary and nonprofit mental health organizations.

2. To assist non-profit mental health organizations with the suicide prevention efforts of such organizations through the use of the expertise of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

3. To jointly carry out suicide prevention efforts.

4. To exchange training sessions and best practices to help with suicide prevention efforts.

5. The Secretary will select within the Department a Director of Suicide Prevention Coordination to undertake any collaboration with non-profit mental health organizations.


In the case of care for eligible veteran: hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care may be provided only during the following periods:

With respect to a veteran who is discharged or released from the active military, naval, or air service after January 27, 2003, the five-year period beginning on the date of such discharge or release.

With respect to a veteran who is discharged or released from the active military, naval, or air service after January 5 of 37 1, 2009, and before January 1, 2011, but did not enroll to receive such hospital care, medical services, or nursing home care pursuant to such paragraph during the five-year period, the one-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.

With respect to a veteran who is discharged or released from the active military, naval, or air service on or before January 27, 2003, and did not enroll in the patient enrollment system on or before such date, the three-year period beginning on January 27, 2008.