Poughkeepsie… To better serve all local veterans, particularly those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, who are experiencing post-deployment readjustment issues and may be at risk for criminal justice encounters; Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus has announced the Dutchess County Veterans Service Agency will seek to partner with Veterans Administration representatives as well as the Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council for collaborative solutions.
“Veterans who are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are at risk for substance abuse, mental health and other stress related issues,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “In Dutchess County, we have had notable success dealing with all of those issues with our extensive array of Alternatives to Incarceration programs. By working within those programs and seeking new collaborative approaches, we can offer a unique approach to address the unique needs of our returning veterans.”
The County Executive’s directive comes after receiving a letter from Dutchess County Legislators Angela Flesland and Robert Weiss who outlined several steps to better meet the needs of local returning veterans who are at risk for criminal justice encounters due to struggles with post-deployment readjustment. In support of the Flesland/Weiss initiative, Steinhaus has asked Veterans Service Agency Director Nelson Eddy Rivera to take action on the proposals offered by the two legislators including:
County Legislator Angela Flesland, who represents District 6 in the Town of Poughkeepsie, commented, “We have been so successful in Dutchess County dealing with the underlying causes of criminal behavior, it just seemed logical that we could find a way to deal with the anxiety, post traumatic stress and other psychological wounds of war that may cause vets to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol or other risky behavior.”
Legislator Flesland, Legislator Weiss and Mr. Rivera will meet with the Executive Committee of the CJC next week.
The Criminal Justice Council, created in 1993 at the recommendation of County Executive Steinhaus, is composed of representatives from various areas of the criminal justice system including representatives from the District Attorney, Public Defender, Sheriff, Probation and Community Corrections, Social Services, Mental Hygiene and Youth Bureau, as well as legislators, members of the judiciary, law enforcement officials and concerned Dutchess County citizens. The Council has been very successful engaging its membership in a collaborative process of information sharing to maximize resources resulting in an enhanced criminal justice process.
The federal Veterans Administration created the Veterans Justice Outreach initiative as a continuum of effort across the entire spectrum of VA services focused on this at-risk population of veterans. Dutchess County Veteran Service Agency Director Nelson Eddy Rivera, “I look forward to working with CJC to incorporate Veterans Justice Outreach strategies at the local level to better serve our veterans, particularly the needs of those now returning from overseas who are dealing with issues of post traumatic stress.”
East Fishkill District 12 Legislator Robert Weiss, himself the father of a returning, veteran said, “A study released last year indicated 20% of veterans returning from the Middle East report symptoms of PTSD and major depression but only half of them sought treatment. We need to make sure these veterans are aware of services available and then encouraged to take advantage of them. In many cases, such intervention will keep them from going to jail and help them return to a productive, post deployment life.”
“Thank you to Legislator Flesland and Legislator Weiss for reaching out on behalf of our local veterans,” concluded County Executive Steinhaus. “Serving the needs of our local veterans has been a top priority for this administration and I am confident our integrated criminal justice approach will be helpful to our returning veterans experiencing post deployment disorders.”