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Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Sharon Kennedy Speaks to NB Rotary Club

Monday, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy delivered the program at the North Baltimore Rotary Club’s meeting.

Justice Kennedy spoke of the importance of the veterans Justice program. She spoke of the information that veterans make up almost one-tenth of the incarcerated population in the United States. She spoke of the Department of Veterans Affair or the VA, has two programs in place to help them. : Veterans Justice Outreach and Health Care for re-entering veterans.

Sharon is an exceptional public speaker and public servant. Justice Kennedy began her career in the justice system as a police officer in the Hamilton County Police Department. To assign to a rotating shift in a single office Road Patrol unit working to protect the citizens of Hamilton County. During her time as an officer Justice Kennedy also worked undercover operations crime prevention programs and later as a civil assistant assisting in drafting police policy and procedure for accreditation programs.

In 1991, after obtaining her law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Justice Kennedy ran a small business of her own as a solo practitioner. While in Private Practice she served the legal needs of juveniles and the less fortunate.

Sharon was Special counsel for attorney general Betty Montgomery. Justice Kennedy  also fought on behalf of Ohio taxpayers to collect monies due to the state of Ohio. As a part-time magistrate in Butler County area courts Justice Kennedy presided over a wide array of civil litigations and assisted law enforcement officers and private citizen seeking issuance of criminal warrants for arrest.

2014, Justice Sharon L. Kennedy was re-elected to a full term of the Supreme Court of Ohio in a decisive victory, winning all 88 counties in garnering 73% of the vote. Prior to her term on the Ohio Supreme Court, Justice can be served at the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations divisions beginning in 1999. From 2005 until December 2014, Justice can be served as the administrative judge of that division. During her time as an administrative judge, she improved the case management system to ensure the timely resolutions of cases for families and children. Working for State legislation she Champion a “common sense” family law and it should have to redo some multiple Forum litigation for Butler County families.

Additionally, Justice Kennedy shared the following information:

Veterans Courts

Facts

Across the United States there are approximately 180,000 veterans in prisons and jails. That represents 8% of the total inmate population.

Statistics demonstrate that 18% of all veterans experience PTSD and symptoms of depression.  According to USDVA study in 2013 from 1999 through 2010 twenty-two veterans per day commit suicide.  That is approximately one every 65 minutes.

Coming Home

It is estimated that 1.5 million members of the US Armed Services will have served in combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Many of those service members have served a third or fourth deployment.  Approximately, 1 in 5 or more than 300,000 men and women are returning with TBI, PTSD, depression and substance abuse issues.

Leaving No Veteran Behind

The unique challenges that combat trauma has on those who are finding it difficult to reintegrate/readjust to civilian life are finding themselves within the justice system.  While there is some debate as to whether courts should distinguish offenders by service or non-service affiliated – there is nevertheless a causal link between service and crime which cannot be denied.  And, in my opinion we have an obligation to treat.

Where It All Began

The first veterans treatment court originated in Buffalo, New York, in January 2008 by the Honorable Robert Russell.  At that time he noticed an increase in the number of veterans appearing on his Drug and Mental Health Docket.

He witnessed first hand the power of camaraderie when veterans working on his staff worked and helped veterans appearing on the docket.  Judge Russell also recognized the benefits available to veterans as a right of having served and began to connect those veterans appearing before him with the benefits and treatment available earned through military service.

Where We Are Today

As of June 30, 2014 there are 220 Veterans Treatment Courts in the United States and many more in the planning stage.  The focus is on a cooperative and collaboration interdisciplinary team including the prosecutor, defense counsel, treatment provider, probation department and Veterans Health Administration and Benefit Administration.

Ohio

Treatment courts fundamentally understand that veterans are struggling with issues of substance abuse in self-medicating, PTSD, TBI, and sexual trauma.  The assessment/evaluation process involves a treatment team establishes a wrap around treatment plan for the individual.

The following Ohio courts have Veterans Courts – Akron Municipal, Athens County Court of Common Pleas, Butler County Court of Common Pleas and Middletown Municipal Court, Cleveland Municipal Court, Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas, Franklin County Municipal Court, Greene County Court of Common Pleas, Hamilton County Municipal Court and Court of Common Pleas, Lorain County Court of Common Pleas, Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas and Youngstown Municipal Court, Mansfield Municipal Court, Marion Municipal Court, Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, Stark County Court of Common Pleas, Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Toledo Municipal Court, and Warren County Court.

Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Study

While treatment courts are growing the real question is whether those courts are making a difference.  Are veterans successfully completing treatment and not returning to the system.

Mansfield Municipal Court Study – ODMHAS followed 90 veterans for one year, ages 21 to 73, and conducted interviews at a 6 month and one year intervals.

The results were significantly positive.  Of 86 veterans 9 were rearrested during the year (10% recidivism rate).  21% had gained full-time employment; 31% were able to secure stable housing; 16% enrolled in school and training programs.

ALL started with a diagnosis of PTSD.  At the end of one year only 25% remained diagnostically categorized as suffering from PTSD.

While this study is promising there is more to do.

On November 11th organizations across the United States will take time to recognize and commemorate Veterans Day.  As we pay give thanks to the men and women who serve let us not forget those who live among us who are the walking wounded who have yet to fully come home.

May we pray for all veterans and their families for their service as they protect us and defend freedom around the globe and for their safe and whole return to America.

Thank you.  May God bless each and every one of you.

 

submitted by John Kelley

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