CHICAGO – June 12, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a bill into law that creates the Veterans and Servicemembers Court Treatment Act. The new law allows counties throughout Illinois to create special judicial courts for Veterans who may have mental health or substance abuse disorders.
“Many of our brave servicemembers come home suffering from the effects of war, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injuries, substance abuse and other service-related disabilities,” said Governor Quinn. “This law will help us take better care of our Veterans who need treatment, not jail.”
House Bill 5214, sponsored by Rep. Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) and Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-Crystal Lake), allows the chief judge of each judicial circuit in Illinois to create a Veteran and Servicemembers Court Program (VSCP) for military Veterans charged with nonviolent crimes.
Veterans who receive approval for enrollment in the VSCP will receive mental health and substance abuse screenings, and must submit to treatment. Upon successful completion of the program, the original charge(s) may be dismissed.
“This is groundbreaking legislation that allows qualifying veterans the opportunity to pay their debt to society while also receiving much-needed treatment for service-related disabilities,” said Dan Grant, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “It is a proven and successful method of restoring mind, body and spirit to a veteran in need.”
The VSCP models other diversionary courts across the nation, such as drug and mental health courts. The first Veterans’ court was created in Buffalo, N.Y. in 2008. There are now more than 30 similar courts nationwide. Cook and Madison Counties in Illinois created Veterans Court programs in 2009.
The law takes effect immediately.