Legislation aims to help veterans struggling with addiction

There are currently 16 veterans courts in Ohio, but new legislation will authorize grants for more throughout the state

Sen. Rob Portman led a round table discussion about new legislation that will help veterans struggling with addiction.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Senator Rob Portman held a round table discussion Wednesday to talk about how new legislation will transform the way the federal government treats veterans struggling with addiction.

President Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) into law about two weeks ago. Portman says it will ensure that resources are devoted to a number of things, including authorizing grants for veterans’ treatment courts.

Portman’s round table discussion involved veterans court judges, treatment teams and program graduates.

“It’s possible to make it, to turn it around and to just completely change,” said Army veteran Christopher Derr.

Derr was heading down a bad path with alcohol when he wound up in veterans court. Now an almost three-year graduate of the treatment program, he’s talking about his struggles and how much Judge Robert Milich and the treatment team helped him turn his life around.

“The court got me mentally and behaviorally back into a structural lifestyle and ever since then, I’ve been able to maintain that.”

Success stories like Derr’s prove that this particular program works.

“The experiences that these veterans courts give them, the kind of support that they need from fellow veterans to be able to get back on track, and the success rate is really very impressive,” Portman said.

CARA contains a special provision for this program, including providing money for mentor and veterans assistance services. It will also expand veterans court to those who were dishonorably discharged because of substance abuse.

“This will help to expand a number of veterans courts and will help some of the existing veterans courts be able to meet the demand,” Portman said.

There are currently 16 veterans courts in Ohio, including ones in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. The goal is to have a veterans court in all 88 counties.

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