General McCaffrey and Judge Russell Present to the National Guard Leadership
On February 28 Justice For Vets presented during the National Guard Bureau Senior Leadership Conference which included all 54 National Guard Adjutant Generals and their key staff representing each state and territory in the United States.
Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court Judge Robert Russell
General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey and Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court Judge Robert Russell spoke at the conference, providing National Guard Generals with background on the emergence of Veterans Treatment Courts and the key role of National Guard as volunteer veteran mentors. Both serve on the Board of Directors Veterans Treatment Court Committee as part of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
“These programs ensure that when members of the National Guard are in trouble with the law because of substance abuse and mental health conditions, they have the opportunity to receive treatment, remain engaged with their families and community, and ultimately return to honor,” said General (ret.) McCaffrey (pictured below).
A significant portion of U.S. forces deployed in the War on Terror were the National Guard. At one point in 2005, half of the combat brigades in Iraq were Army National Guard, a percentage of commitment as part of the overall Army effort not seen since World War II. Recent studies show that National Guard troops who deploy are significantly more likely to abuse alcohol that their non-deployed peers. Additionally, from 2009-2010 suicides among National Guard members increased by 50% and abuse of prescription medications, especially sleep and pain medications have been on an increase among National Guard veterans for the past few years.
Judge Robert Russell created the nation’s first Veterans Treatment Court in 2008 in Buffalo, NY and told the Adjutant Generals that he has served National Guard in his court. “Unfortunately we have seen Guard members come into our programs struggling with serious substance abuse and mental illness,” he said. “We are able to connect them to the benefits and services they have earned and get their lives back on track.” Judge Russell noted that the presence in court of volunteer veteran mentors has been critical to this success.
More and more Veterans Treatment Courts are providing an outlet for the National Guard to be of service to their fellow veterans. By volunteering to be mentors, the National Guard can continue to serve on the home front, finding a sense of purpose and fulfillment that can only be achieved when one veteran saves the life of another.“When we have a young member of the Guard from the war in Iraq in court we know we can pair them with a volunteer veteran mentor who was also served in the Guard in Iraq. The bond they form is immediate and essential for us to get the individual stabilized and involved with the program,” said Judge Russell.
Following the presentation numerous Adjutant Generals approached General McCaffrey and Judge Russell to applaud their efforts and asked how they can be involved. "Justice For Vets was honored to be asked to present to this incredible group of military leadership,” said Justice For Vets Director Matt Stiner. “As commanders of their state National Guard, Adjutant Generals are key allies for ensuring that when their men and women struggle with substance abuse and mental illness they have access to Veterans Treatment Courts. We look forward to working with the National Guard Bureau as these programs continue to expand throughout the country.”