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Veterans Court bill signed into law

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Chambersburg, is pictured during an Intergovernmental Operations Committee meeting.

Additional Veterans Courts could be coming to counties throughout Pennsylvania.

Legislation proposed by state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Chambersburg, and Sen. Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, promoting Veterans Courts in Pennsylvania was recently signed into law as Act 111. As a result of the enactment of Senate Bill 976, counties are encouraged to partner on Regional Veterans Courts and provide an option for a ‘Veterans Track’ within a county’s problem-solving court.

The legislation received a unanimous vote from both the Senate and House.

“Veterans have sacrificed so much for our freedoms – this legislation shows that we care,” said Mastriano, a retired 30-year combat veteran. “Not a day goes by when I don’t think about a fellow brother or sister who came home and had difficulty acclimating themselves to civilian and work life. Veterans Courts will help provide our American patriots with the stability they need when they come home.”

Veterans Courts are optional and emphasize a team-focused approach. The first such court opened in Buffalo in 2008, with the first Pennsylvania Veterans Court opening in 2009 in Lackawanna County. The Lancaster County Veterans Court is open to any current or former member of any branch of the military, including the Reserves and National Guard.

According to the Lackawanna County Veterans Court website, accepted participants are expected to participate in and complete numerous pro-social, treatment-oriented activities based on an individualized treatment plan. Typically, these may include but are not limited to: meetings with Veteran Mentors, AA/NA Meetings (or approved alternatives), group and individual therapy, medication management/psychiatrist appointments, regular appointment with a Veterans Justice Outreach worker, weekly court appearances, community service, probation appointments, and random drug testing. As each participant requires a different level of intervention based on need and progress, the participants’ specific needs may require the participant to be involved in other related activities.

Currently, 42 of Pennslylvania’s 67 counties do not have a Veterans Court.

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