Coming back from the horrors of combat can leave a lasting impression on U.S. soldiers. That's why the Youngstown Municipal Court started the Veterans Treatment Court in January 2011 with the help of a $35,000 state grant.
The Veterans Treatment Court provides a second chance for troops who have mental or substance abuse problems and are charged with non-violent crimes.
"We sort of run it like a military organization. We explain to them that this is like going to basic training," Judge Robert P. Milich said. "They have to understand they're going to enter a guilty plea and if they don't comply they could be serving some jail."
The Youngstown Veterans Treatment Court recently graduated its first veteran. The marine now lives in California and is studying to become a minister. Judge Milich said a handful of other veterans are expected to graduate from the program by the end of this year.
Judge Milich said the 20 veterans currently in the program are in need of rehabilitation and treatment for issues such as post traumatic stress disorders, traumatic brain injuries and drug abuse.
He said the Veterans Treatment Court assists in getting these veterans the help they need by providing the necessary treatment, support and services.
"One of the goals of Veterans Treatment Court is to reduce the recidivism, and you do that by finding a treatment they need," Judge Milich said.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton is one of the state's leading advocates for Veterans Treatment Court.
"Seeing what Youngstown is doing and getting their first graduate just is proof that this program can work and can make a difference to those who've given their lives for our country and really paid the price for it," Justice Stratton said.
Justice Stratton's family has a long line of veterans including her grandfather, father, two brothers, five uncles, a cousin, and a nephew. Her family is a part of her inspiration to work on issues supporting veterans.
"Some of them are ending up in the criminal justice system because they can't readjust or their illnesses aren't diagnosed or they have depression issues," Justice Stratton said. "We can rescue some of their lives, we can make a difference, we can really bring resources to bear and we can thank them for their service instead of ignoring them like we did with the Vietnam War."
"We've had more than a million troops rotate through Iraq and Afghanistan...and a third of those are having some kind of issues," Judge Milich said. "So, it's important because we are going to be faced with an increasing problem."
The first Ohio Veterans Treatment Court opened in Mansfield in 2009.