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Posted on Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 5:08 a.m.

Veterans Justice Initiative Summit hosted at Cooley Law School's Ann Arbor campus

By Staff

VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System Aug. 23 hosted a Veterans Justice Initiative Summit at the Ann Arbor Campus of Thomas M. Cooley Law School. The Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals co-hosted the event.


Cooley Law School's Director of the Center for Ethics, Service and Professionalism Heather Spielmaker spoke about initiatives to help veterans with legal concerns.

photos courtesy of VA Ann Arbor Health System


The Aug. 23 event included a panel discussion among judges who deal with treatment issues as well as a panel of veterans. Pictured are two veterans involved in the Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative. They are also mentors in Judge David Jordan's court, the 54-b District Court in East Lansing.

The event brought together judges, probation officers, legislators, veteran advocates, VA clinicians and veterans to share information and discuss best practices when serving veterans involved in the justice system. Also during the event, the 15th District Court in Ann Arbor announced the creation of a Veterans Treatment Court, to be held at the 15 th District Court. The WCVTC will integrate alcohol and drug treatment and mental health services with supervision of each veteran’s probationary case.

The purpose of the Veteran Justice Outreach Initiative is to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among veterans by ensuring that eligible veterans have timely access to VHA mental health and substance use services when clinically indicated and other VA services and benefits as appropriate.

Each VA medical center has been asked to designate a facility-based veterans' justice outreach specialist, responsible for direct outreach, assessment, and case management for veterans in local courts and jails, and liaison with local justice system partners. Locally, that role is filled by Melody Power.

In attendance at the Aug. 23 event were representatives from Congressman John Dingell, Congressman Tim Walberg and Senator Carl Levin's office, as well as State Sen. Rick Jones (judiciary committee chair) and State Sen. Joe Hune and judges, probation officers, and staff from the VA and the Washtenaw County Sheriff. Jones, who has been involved with legislation supporting veterans treatment courts, was the keynote speaker.

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