Flynn wants statewide veterans’ courts

HARRISBURG, April 15 – State Rep. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, has joined Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, in reintroducing legislation that would establish veterans’ treatment courts across the commonwealth.

The first veterans’ court started in Lackawanna County in 2009 under Judge Michael Barrasse. Since that time, the veterans’ court has shown to be a proven winner in positive results - both financially for the state and personally for veterans, according to Flynn.

“The veterans’ experiences and injuries, both visible and invisible, have created undue stress on their families. Combine that with the poor job market and economic challenges and you have compounded crime, homelessness, family difficulties, and a high suicide rate among veterans.

“This specialized court provides supervised treatment for veterans by veterans' advocates who understand the unique underlying problems that have resulted in their running afoul of the law,” Flynn said.

The program is a problem-solving court that allows for rehabilitation instead of prison for veterans who have developed substance abuse or mental health issues.

In addition to the main premise of establishing veterans’ courts in counties that don’t have one, the legislation (H.B. 887) would allow president judges from different counties’ courts of common pleas to establish joint veterans’ courts, which would be particularly helpful in counties with smaller veteran populations or fewer resources to help veterans in need.

Pennsylvania has the fifth-largest veteran population in the country, with nearly 1 million veterans, but only 18 of the state’s 67 counties have established veterans’ courts.

“These men and women have served their country and have been injured. They were willing to lay their life on the line for their country. We, as a society, have an obligation to treat them. We must leave no veteran behind. It’s important that veterans in every county across the commonwealth have access to a veterans’ court and that’s why I am proud to reintroduce this legislation,” Flynn said.