The Maine Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) presented Representative Maeghan Maloney, of Augusta, with the Commander-in-Chief citation at their annual convention on June 8. The award was made in recognition of Representative Maloney’s successful efforts to introduce and pass legislation to establish the first Veterans’ Treatment Court in Maine.
Representative Maloney was the first of several honorees at the event to be recognized for their efforts in supporting Maine veterans. VFW Commander Kevin G. Peterson presented the award and many veterans in the audience expressed appreciation for the new program, now operational in Augusta as part of the co-occurring disorders court.
In accepting the award, Maloney noted that saying “thank you” to our troops is not nearly enough, and we must do more through our actions to support our veterans. She highlighted that while the vast majority of servicemen and women return from the front and never have any contact with the criminal justice system, psychiatrists and law enforcement officials agree that combat-related injuries have led to some instances of criminal behavior.
“With these treatment courts, veterans are held accountable for their actions through proper treatment for mental health and substance abuse problems, community service and fines. Those not completing the program will be incarcerated. The veterans’ treatment court is a second chance, not a ‘get out of jail free’ card.”
One day each week, Monday, is now dedicated to veterans. Togus V.A. Medical Center sends a health administrator to assist veterans in signing up for federal treatment programs that save Maine taxpayers money and provide the assistance these individuals need. Additionally, and a critical component of the system, volunteer veteran mentors attend court to provide support and offer advice to their fellow veterans.
In Buffalo, NY, the first veterans’ treatment court, established in 2008, has a zero recidivism rate and illustrates that these courts can make a significant difference. Representative Maloney requested that any veterans that would like to become volunteer mentors for the treatment court contact her to get involved and help this program become a success in Maine.
Maloney hopes that she will be able to continue working to fully implement the veterans’ court if elected as District Attorney by the voters of Kennebec and Somerset Counties in November.