americaSTATEWIDE – The Illinois Judges Association recognizes Veterans Day as the time to reflect and honor our men and women in uniform. While most are strengthened by the military experience, combat has unfortunately left a growing number of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

One in five veterans has symptoms of a mental health disorder or cognitive impairment. One in six veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffer from a substance abuse issue.

Research continues to draw a link between substance abuse and combat–related mental illness. Left untreated, mental health disorders common among veterans can directly lead to involvement in the criminal justice system.Veterans treatment courts have had a tremendous impact in the State of Illinois.

“Illinois judges believe we need to work together to raise awareness of the need to assist our veterans and to support all of those involved in a veterans treatment court,” Judge Robert Anderson, President of the Illinois Judges Association, said.

Illinois was among the first states in the nation to recognize the need for a veterans’ treatment court. An unhappy result from military service may be post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression, drug and alcohol dependency or addiction and other co-occurring mental illness or substance abuse problems. The Illinois Judges Association supports and recognizes the judges who preside over veterans’ treatment courts to make sure our veterans receive the treatment, benefits and services they have earned.

Veterans Treatment Courts are judicially supervised court dockets that combine rigorous treatment and accountability for veterans facing incarceration due to charges stemming from mental health and/or substance abuse issues. These judicially supervised court dockets also protect the community safety, reduce correctional costs, and improve public welfare.

The courts promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated response and allow veterans to go through the treatment court process with other veterans who have similar common past experiences and links them with Veterans Affairs services designed for the veterans unique needs.

Orchestrated by judges from around the state, there are multiple Veterans Treatment Courts in Illinois. DuPage County veterans are overseen by Judge Bruce Kelsey. Lake County is presided over by Judge Christopher Stride. Kankakee County has been handled by Chief Judge Michael Kick; it also accepts referrals from Iroquois County.

The soon-to-retire Judge Kendal Wenzelman has been handling the court in Peoria County, and Judge Michael Kramer will be taking the Peoria County helm by December.St. Clair County’s veteran’s court is headed by Judge Zina Cruise; Winnebago County is overseen by Judge Janet Holmgrem. Honorable Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes established the Will County court and continues to preside over it.  Peoria County is headed by Judge Lisa Wilson, whileJudge Erika Sanders presides in both Christian and in Effingham Counties’ veterans’ courts.

Madison County, home of the first veterans’ treatment court in Illinois, is presided over by Judge Richard Tognarelli. Champaign County is in the process of setting up their first veterans’ treatment court and expects to have it up and running in 2016. These courts are set-up by the various judicial circuits in collaboration with other agencies to aid veterans in becoming stable and employed via various diversionary programs.

Cook County has six veterans treatment courts: one at 26th and California is presided over by Judge Lawrence Flood, another in Skokie at the 2nd Municipal District is headed by Judge Marguerite Quinn, the 3rd Municipal district holds veterans court in Rolling Meadows with Judge Martin Kelley, the 4th Municipal District in Maywood is handled by Judge Kristina Ryan, the 5th Municipal District in Bridgeview is presided over by Judge Carmen Aguilar, and Judge Darron Bowden oversees the court for the 6th municipal district in Markham.

The criminal justice system recognizes that veterans must be held accountable for their wrongdoing, provide safety for the public, and also provide treatment for our veterans. The Illinois Judges Association joins the many other groups around the nation in honoring veterans. The Illinois Judges Association supports the judges and their programs that help veterans.

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