CONTACT: Shrujal.Joseph@sen.ca.gov, (916) 651-4031 (Roth)
Paco.Torres@asm.ca.gov, (916) 319-2060 (Cervantes)
Senate Public Safety Committee votes unanimously in favor of Senate Bill 339
(Sacramento) – Today, Senator Richard D. Roth’s (D-Riverside) and Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes’ (D-Corona) proposal to 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 was approved by the Senate Public Safety Committee on a bipartisan, unanimous vote.
Senate Bill 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.
“It is our duty to support the brave men and women who have answered the call and stood up to defend our nation,” said Senator Roth. “As our veterans return home, they often face tremendous challenges in readjusting to civilian life. I am proud to author SB 339, which will help ensure California’s veterans have the treatment and resources they need to recover and readjust to society.”
Assemblymember Cervantes said: “I want to thank Senator Roth for his leadership on this important issue. As a member of a family of veterans, I recognize that they have sacrificed so much for our nation. Providing veterans with the services they deserve, using courts specifically designed for veterans, is the least we can do if they find themselves entangled in our justice system.”
SB 339 is sponsored by B. Wayne Hughes, Jr., an entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of SkyRose Ranch in San Miguel which treats veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. 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.”
Combat-related mental illness is common and has been shown to be linked to substance abuse, with returning veterans often not receiving 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 24 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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Senator Richard D. Roth represents the 31st State Senate District, which includes the communities of Corona, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, March Air Reserve Base, Moreno Valley, Norco, and Perris. Prior to his election, he served for 32 years in the United States Air Force, retiring in 2007 in the grade of Major General.
Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes represents the 60th District of the California State Assembly, which encompasses the communities of Corona, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Norco, and a portion of the City of Riverside.