LIMA — Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy spoke at the Lima Rotary Club on Monday afternoon. Kennedy spoke on a developing veterans courts across the state of Ohio to help reintegrate veterans into society.
“It’s a specialized docket … much like a drug court or a mental health court,” Kennedy said. “It is about helping them get connected to the services that they have earned as a result of their service and helping them fully, wholly reintegrate into our society.”
Many veterans who come home after serving a tour or tours of duty, do not know where to go for help.
“There are 180,000 veterans that come home every year and 8 percent of our prison population is represented by veterans,” she said. “If we have services available for them, but we can’t connect them, we’re failing them. They served us. We have an obligation to make them whole when they come home and help them integrate back into society.”
Many of the problems veterans face are a direct result of their service.
“Many are coming home with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, recovery from sexual assaults from across where they have served or traumatic assault. As a result of those factors they cannot fully integrate,” she said. “We find them being homeless, not being able to feed or care for themselves, but also struggling with the mental health afflictions that are caused as a result of their service.”
Several counties have been working toward creating a veterans court inside their court systems.
“Allen County represents 8 percent of those Ohioans who are joining the military,” Kennedy said. “You don’t have a veterans court, so perhaps the Municipal Court or the general division [of the Common Pleas Court] will actually begin a veterans court.”
There is also a program through Legal Aid for veterans.
“It’s law firms who do pro bono work who have agreed to provide veterans lawyers for free if they enter into the criminal justice system. As a result if you’re a judge and you have a veteran who needs a lawyer then you can connect them to that free service as well,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy also stressed the need for every veteran who is leaving the service to be provided a Resource Guide from the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.
“It is, by thumbnail, everything you can need as it relates to your benefits from crisis counseling to education and employment opportunity to financial assistance all the way down to some of the local organizations that they can engage,” Kennedy said. “This would be the packet if they are coming home to Ohio that they would get as part of their benefit. There’s men and women who have served who might not ask for the help and not know what is available.”
Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.