The needs of military veterans are being addressed in La Paz County in unprecedented ways this year, including the formation of a special court for qualifying veterans who get in trouble with the legal system and new efforts in offering health care to veterans in Parker.
There are an estimated 3,500 veterans living in La Paz County at any given time, and more during winter, according to La Paz County Attorney Tony Rogers.
“There are more veterans from earlier wars than from the recent one, and each generation has its own unique challenges,” Rogers said.
The purpose of a Veterans Court is to identify veterans who enter the criminal justice system and determine whether treatment is appropriate through Veterans Administration (VA) services. By intervening in a veteran’s legal trouble and dealing with their cases in a specialized way, advocates say the court system can address the underlying causes of the trouble and prevent it escalating further. Rogers says the intervention can also result in savings to the county, “by reducing the cost of prosecuting and incarcerating the veteran, who is healed of his wounds and is no longer a burden to society.”
For those who may see this as overly optimistic, Rogers points to the recidivism rate – the percentage of persons who reoffend after going through the program – which is approximately 10 percent, compared with the 45 percent reported by traditional courts.
Bill Risen, a key community stakeholder who has been involved in the push to set up the court, says the change is needed because of the unique challenges faced by veterans who have issues readjusting to normal life after serving.
“The bottom line is, these guys have been in the war zone,” Risen says. “They’ve been taught different reactions and different responses, so they need treated differently when they have problems back home.”
Participation in the court is voluntary, and those who enter the program can be expelled for violating the court rules.
A Veteran’s Health Committee has been formed by La Paz Regional Healthcare in Parker, in an effort to address veterans’ needs and attempt to bring VA medical services to La Paz County.
The committee is chaired by Philip Cushman, a member of the board at La Paz Regional and a veteran himself. A recent workshop concluded that veterans here need treatment facilities closer to home than is currently available.
Cushman said the hospital would be starting to work on the ideas presented, and plan to host another workshop this Fall on moving things forward.
CEO of La Paz Regional Healthcare Robert Libberton told Parker Live he wants to remove any obstacles to bringing the necessary care to veterans here.
“I think our efforts are centralized around ensuring we overcome the barriers to care for the veterans of La Paz County,” he said. “The board of the hospital is committed to hearing our veterans and finding solutions for their care.”