A First for Tennessee Veterans Courts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 23, 2015) – Senator Mark Green, MD and Representative Dawn White worked with Davidson County General Sessions Judge Melissa Blackburn to provide the state’s first sustainable support for both the establishment and maintenance of Tennessee’s Veterans Treatment Court programs through passage of SB 711/HB 854, the Criminal Justice Veterans Compensation Act of 2015 (CJVA). This legislation makes Tennessee’s Veterans Courts the first in the nation to have such support.

Tennessee has three established Veterans Treatment Courts in Davidson, Shelby, and Montgomery Counties which meet established criteria of the state’s Department of Mental Health Services. Drug Courts around the state have also designated efforts and assistance to the military men and women seeking services to aid in their return to civilian society.

Services provided include but are not limited to group therapy, job coaching, mentoring by fellow veterans, and specialized treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the substance abuse frequently used by sufferers to self-medicate.

“These support services are without a doubt essential to our Veterans at a time of great struggle with the demons and scars of war,” noted TN Senator Mark Green, himself an Iraq War Veteran who represents the 22nd Senate District which includes the 101st Airborne stationed in Clarksville. “They more than anyone, have earned an extra measure of devotion from us to assist them in their time of need for the devotion and sacrifice humbly given to our state and nation.”

Started in 2008, certified Veterans Courts currently operate under a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Justice. The legislation passed in both chambers of the General Assembly is expected to become law which will allow existing courts to retain funds collected within their respective counties through portions of DUI fees levied and has established the vehicle for all counties to pursue Tennessee certification to access state funds.

“Our Veterans have served us and honoring their service with adequate support is the right thing to do,” noted Rep. Dawn White of Murfreesboro, home of the Alvin C. York Veterans Hospital campus. “With more and more of our servicemen and women returning home, we have to do our part.”

The Veterans Courts are operated through the Tennessee Judicial System as a trial court with special emphasis on access to therapy and support services in a necessary partnership with mental health.

“The suicide rate of Veterans is 50% higher than the average population,” remarked Judge Melissa Blackburn whose court is one of three certified in the state. “The critical nature of services provided that parallel the judicial process cannot be understated.”

Once signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam, the CJVA will become effective July 1, 2015.
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