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Iraq veteran feels he's benefited from system after drug incident

Most people who admit to taking illegal drugs and then causing a car accident would face criminal charges and possible jail time. But military veterans are not most people, and Colorado has a system in place to give some veterans more effective attention when they run into legal troubles.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the rehabilitative success of a veteran who could have faced a tougher time for a drug crime after he got into a car accident. His status as a veteran and his personal mental health situation, however, got him a spot in Colorado's Veterans Trauma Court.

Beginning in 1997, Colorado has tried to more thoughtfully find alternative ways to handle veterans who land in the legal system. The first specialized court was designated to drug-related issues. Since then, such veteran-focused programs have spread that better cater to the counseling and rehabilitative needs of many military veterans.

The specific veteran mentioned above served in Iraq, where he saw his fellow soldiers killed in a helicopter accident. Once he returned home, he reportedly abused drugs to self-medicate and got into an accident after driving under the influence. Last Thursday, he graduated from the special veteran court program.

To succeed in the program, he went through counseling and drug rehabilitation. He also had to submit to drug tests throughout the course of the program. He is just one of more than 100 veterans in-need who has had the opportunity to benefit from the Veterans Trauma Court.

Drug rehabilitation can be a powerful life change for the individuals who struggle with drug problems. When the system finds ways of more effectively address drug crime through rehabilitation, that suggests that more access to alternative programs would benefit not just veterans but many other defendants in drug cases as well.

Source: Colorado Springs Gazette, "Court offers alternatives for veterans facing felony charges," Jakob Rodgers, May 3, 2012-05-10

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