Monday, November 18, 2013

Norfolk Veterans Treatment Court Honors first Graduates

On November 12th, the main courtroom at Dedham District Court was packed for the inaugural celebration of the successful completion of the Norfolk Veterans' Treatment Court program by five Iraq and Afghanistan Army and Marine Corp combat veterans.  Dedham District Court First Justice  Mary Hogan Sullivan, the founder of the program, gave a brief summary of each man's progress in sobriety, employment, education and relationship building skills by way of introduction.  The graduates then each had an opportunity to speak.  Addressing the team that guided them through the program, one veteran who had been told about the program by Norfolk County Sheriff Michael Bellotti while incarcerated, movingly said, "You are saving lives."

Judge Hogan Sullivan described the special court, designed for criminally involved veterans as a combination of hard work and compassion. Participants must report weekly, make progress and remain clean to stay in the program. Secretary of Health and Human Services, John Polanowicz, himself a West Point graduate and veteran of a Blackhawk Assault Helicopter Company, spoke of the importance of focusing on treatment rather than incarceration and the courage that it takes for a vet to enter treatment.  He reflected on his own feelings upon reentry, after his service was completed.

Other state and local government departments are actively promoting the successful reintegration of veterans into civilian life. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced a partnership with the Trial Court to work towards a Veterans' Court for vets with substance abuse and mental health issues. Governor Patrick has proclaimed November as "Hire a Veteran Month," with a full schedule of events for vets seeking employment.  Veterans Programs and Services is an ongoing part of the Career Services Department of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The Department of Veterans' Services has set up Mass VetsAdvisor, a one stop shop to access all veterans' benefits.  In the private sector, Starbucks has committed to a nationwide hiring strategy dedicated to veterans and active duty spouses with the goal of 10,000 hires during the next five years.