Conn. gets funds to help vets with trauma

November 10, 2008 1:17:13 PM PST
The federal government has given Connecticut $2 million to help military veterans with trauma-related disorders get their lives back on track after committing minor crimes, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Monday. The money is for a five-year program designed to move veterans in jail for minor crimes back into the community and provide them with mental health treatment and other services they need.

The state wants to screen at least 500 Connecticut veterans annually for trauma-related disorders and divert a minimum of 250 veterans a year from the criminal justice system to community treatment, according to the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, which is overseeing the new veterans' program.

In a report last month, the department said 1.65 million American military personnel have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 12,000 from Connecticut.

The report also said one study shows that up to 17 percent of Iraq War veterans and 11 percent of Afghanistan veterans met screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

State mental health officials say the stresses of combat place some veterans at a higher risk of getting into trouble.

"Some veterans who commit minor crimes that are the direct result of traumatic wartime experiences need treatment, not incarceration," said Thomas A. Kirk Jr., commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

"As they recover, this program will help them improve their lives, enhance the quality of life for everyone in the community and reduce demand on the correctional system," Kirk said.

Rell said on the eve of Veterans Day that veterans' sacrifices can take a physical and emotional toll on them.

"It is important that these brave men and women can count on our support to help put their lives back together," the governor said. "This innovative program offers tremendous assistance."

The Southeastern Mental Health Authority, a state-run facility serving the Norwich area, will implement the new program.

The federal grant came from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which gave awards to five other states for similar programs.

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