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County Expands Outreach to Veterans in Criminal Justice System

Published: 2/15/2019

Poughkeepsie … Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro announced the Division of Veterans’ Services has begun a new initiative to engage military veterans currently in the criminal justice system to connect them to services, including the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Vet2Vet Peer Support Program.

All too often, veterans returning home, who had no previous involvement in the criminal justice system, find themselves struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) , traumatic brain injury, anxiety or depression, making it difficult to adjust to civilian life and find themselves in the justice system. According to research from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than half of justice-involved veterans have either mental health problems or substance-use issues. Many of these veterans face housing challenges and difficulty finding work, making it harder to reintegrate into society. Additionally, veterans involved the criminal justice system may be at higher risk for suicide.

On average, there are approximately 15 veterans in Dutchess County Jail at any given time. To help address the issues that led to incarceration and assist with their transaction back into the community when they are released, Division of Veterans Service Director Marc Coviello makes regular visits to the jail to meet with veterans. These visits are multi-faceted, providing emotional support as well as connections to educational resources and referrals to services specifically designed for veterans, including the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Vet2Vet Peer Support Program. Director Coviello also contacts veterans’ families, when requested by veterans, to share updates and information when it is difficult for family to visit, helping to strengthen veterans’ support systems.  

County Executive Molinaro said, “Dutchess County is committed to our veterans, including the brave men and women who have served our country but find themselves in our criminal justice system. Director Coviello’s outreach efforts make a real impact in these veterans’ lives, connecting them to resources that will help them reintegrate into our community and become productive residents.”

In Dutchess County, the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Vet2Vet Peer Support Program is administered by Mental Health America, and the program includes assistance for veterans living with PTSD, suicidal thoughts, traumatic brain injuries, depression, addiction and other mental health issues.

The Dwyer Vet2Vet program includes:

•    a network of peer support groups, each facilitated by a veteran;
•    a one-on-one peer mentoring program, matching veterans with veterans;
•    referral to services addressing PTSD, suicide and suicidal thoughts, traumatic brain injuries, depression and other issues;
•    case management in the form of advocacy, support and connections to resources for veterans and their families; and
•    socialization activities for veterans and their families.

Director Coviello said, “Every Dutchess County veteran has earned our unwavering support, and that commitment does not end if a veteran enters the criminal justice system. On the contrary, these veterans need our assistance even more, to ensure they can access programs and services that address their issues, put them on the road to success and lower their changes of recidivism. Our Division of Veterans’ Services is proud to reach out to veterans who need assistance, and we’ll continue to conduct outreach to serve as many veterans as possible.”

The design and construction of the new Dutchess County’s Justice & Transition Center (DCJTC) will enable these veteran outreach efforts to be expanded, with more space for programming and services in the new facility. Much of Director Coviello’s outreach is currently one-on-one; the new DCJTC will allow for group sessions, enabling veterans to deal with the problems they may share, such as substance use and PTSD.

More information about Veterans’ Services’ outreach efforts, including photos and videos, are available on Director of Veterans Services Facebook page.

County Executive Molinaro will discuss veterans issues, among other topics, during his 2019 State of the County address on Wednesday, February 27th at 5:30 p.m. at the Culinary Institute of America’s Marriott Pavilion, Ecolab Auditorium. During his address, County Executive will outline the focus and priorities for Dutchess County Government in 2019. The State of the County address event is open to the public. To learn more about the event and to RSVP visit dutchessny.gov/rsvp.