Senator Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside) announced today that B. Wayne Hughes, Jr., an entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of SkyRose Ranch in San Miguel which treats veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, has thrown his support behind Senate Bill 339. SB 339 will help ensure access to recovery and rehabilitation programs for veterans who are battling substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other service-related disorders. In sponsoring SB 339, Mr. Hughes has committed to personally fund half of the $200,000 needed to support the statewide best-practices study commissioned by SB 339.
Mr. Hughes said: “The sad truth is that our veterans are commonly ignored and pushed aside once they return from their noble service, and our jails and prisons are beyond the breaking point with over-capacity. We owe it to these brave men and women and all Californians to find solutions that help rehabilitate those who have served our country, stabilize our correctional system, keep our communities safe and give us hope for a brighter tomorrow. SB 339 takes those important first steps by expanding the reach of veterans’ courts and saluting those who have served for us but now face their own personal battles.”
Senator Roth said: “I thank Mr. Hughes for his generous support of our veterans, and am honored to have his strong support for SB 339. It is our duty to stand behind the brave men and women who have answered the call and stood up to defend our nation. As our veterans return home, they often face tremendous challenges in readjusting to civilian life. SB 339 will help ensure California’s veterans have the treatment and resources they need to recover and readjust to society.”
SB 339 will help expand the reach of veterans’ treatment courts (VTCs), which serve veterans who are involved with the justice system and whose court cases are affected by such issues as addiction, mental illness, and co-occurring disorders. Through a collaboration of prosecutors, public defenders, veterans, social services, and family support organizations, VTCs promote sobriety, recovery, and stability.
Combat-related mental illness is common and has been shown to be linked to substance abuse, and returning veterans often do not receive the treatment they need as they transition to civilian life. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that one in six veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have symptoms of PTSD. In many cases, PTSD and substance abuse are co-occurring disorders, further fueled by a 270% increase in opioid-based prescriptions among VA patients over the last 12 years. Left untreated, mental health disorders that are common among veterans can directly lead to their involvement in the criminal justice system.
VTCs have proven successful in rehabilitating veterans and have been embraced by both public defenders and prosecutors. Unfortunately each jurisdiction must allocate their limited court resources, and only 29 of California’s 58 counties have some degree of a veteran treatment court. SB 339 commissions a study to identify best practices and makes recommendations for the expansion of VTCs. The measure will allow the state to continue this critical program and better treat California’s veterans.
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