L.A. court seeks to rehab vets, not jail them

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES The /*Veterans Court*/ program launched Monday, giving vets the opportunity to take part in mental health and substance abuse treatment programs after they plead guilty to their crimes.

The program is a collaboration that includes the /*Los Angeles County Public Defender*/ and the /*Department of Veterans Affairs*/.

It has special meaning for vets who now serve as judges, including the presiding judge for Los Angeles County courts.

"We pay attention to our veterans for all of their lives," Judge Tim McCoy said. "

Officials hope treatment given to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, drug abuse, alcoholism or any other troubles will mean fewer repeat offenders.

"If we just put them in jail, no mental health treatment, then we're going to see them again," said Jacquelyn Lacey, assistant district attorney.

Veterans Court is a pilot program for now. It will be evaluated after 6 months and then be determined whether it should be extended to other courts across the county.

Backers believe that this is a critical time, as soldiers and Marines return from multiple tours of duty.

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