New Jersey's 7th Legislative District

Senator Diane Allen

Senator Diane Allen

Now Law: Allen Bill Creating Pre-Trial Program for Veterans Coping With Mental Illness

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Legislation sponsored by Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington) to provide greater support for veterans struggling with addiction or mental health issues like PTSD is now law after it was signed by Governor Chris Christie.

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Diane Allen to establish a pre-trial program for veterans was signed into law. (©iStock)

“This program will enable law enforcement, the courts and health professionals to better serve those who have served our country,” Senator Allen said. “These individuals fought for us, and as long as they are non-violent, they deserve a chance to get better instead of being incarcerated.”

The bill, S-307, establishes a statewide Veterans Diversion Program to divert active duty service members and veterans away from the criminal justice system as early as possible following an interaction with law enforcement. The purpose is to increase access to screening, counseling, treatment and case management for mental health issues, substance abuse and co-occurring health disorders.

If a criminal complaint is filed, the courts would now have the ability to postpone court proceedings while an eligible service member participates in mental health intervention services.  If, after a minimum of six months, the prosecutor is satisfied that the service member is making progress and has complied with the terms of the agreement, the prosecutor can move for the dismissal of all criminal charges.

Currently, the courts utilize the Veterans Assistance Project to identify veterans who enter the criminal justice program and provide referrals to various community services or mentors. However, a referral without clear direction on how to access services could still leave many veterans in need.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other combat-related conditions are very serious and many returning veterans face a long road of recovery ahead of them,” Senator Allen said. “We need to help them along on that road by supporting them with every available resource. One way we can do that is give them chance to get the treatment they need rather than just throw them in jail.”

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