Youngstown Opens New Veterans' Court
Published June 24th, 2011
The defendants are part of a new program in Youngstown.
All are veterans, most having served in Iraq or Afghanistan, who found themselves in trouble with the law after getting back home again.
"We're not used to the life or death decisions that they've made every day, and I think that's a very difficult adjustment for them," said Dr. Chrisanne Gordon.
Gordon, a Cardinal Mooney High School graduate, is now a physician in Columbus and one of the organizers of Youngstown's new veterans' court.
It's only the second one in Ohio, and one of only 50 or so across the country. It's a hybrid of sorts of the existing drug and mental health courts.
Municipal Judge Robert Milich said officials eventually "found out [those courts] weren't really dealing with the issues of veterans."
Organizers said some returning veterans were never given counseling to help them deal with what they faced in battle, and they end up turning to drugs and alcohol trying to cope and eventually get arrested.
"They're affected mentally to noise, to light," said Milich. "They're used to driving fast to avoid getting shot at, and they come home, and it's hard to break that habit."
Now, defendants who qualify can be referred for treatment through the VA and other services. The judge said those who complete the programs, depending on their charges, could have their sentences reduced, or have their cases dismissed altogether.
"Youngstown has actually become a model, and we will be a model for the nation," said Gordon.
To help spread the word, another Mooney graduate, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, is working on a documentary with his production company profiling this program and the problems facing returning vets.
Its title is "Operation Resurrection," and it should be ready in time for Veterans' Day in November.
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