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Veterans Assistance Project Starts in Cumberland, Salem Counties

For immediate release: October 1, 2010
For further information contact:
At the Judiciary: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig 609-292-9580

A program to assist military veterans who enter the court system has started in Cumberland and Salem counties.

The Veterans Assistance Project is a combined effort of the Judiciary, the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health Services, to provide referrals to existing community services as well as mentors for veterans.

“The inclusion of Cumberland and Salem counties means that the Veterans Assistance Project is now available throughout South Jersey,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said. “We will continue to work with other agencies and service organizations to help veterans, who have sacrificed in defense of our country, get the assistance they need.”

The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs will determine which veterans are assigned mentors. The mentors, active and retired veterans themselves, volunteer to work with defendants while their criminal cases are pending and afterward.  They see that veterans receive assistance and try to help them avoid behaviors that may lead them back into the criminal justice system.

Cumberland and Salem counties’ participation in the Veterans Assistance Project will be a coordinated effort across the court’s operating divisions that will include liaisons from the criminal, family, municipal and probation divisions. 

The Veterans Assistance Project began in July in Gloucester County, the third county that comprises the Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem Vicinage.

“The expansion of this program to Cumberland and Salem counties marks a milestone because it ensures that the entire veterans’ population of South Jersey now has access to this vital service,” said Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, the Adjutant General of New Jersey who oversees the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and serves as commander of the New Jersey National Guard. “The addition of Cumberland and Salem Counties County takes us that much closer of the ultimate goal of making this program available to every New Jersey veteran in need.”

Some veterans return from military service with physical, mental or personal issues and may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to manage the stress of returning to civilian life.  The Veterans Assistance Project aims to connect service members who need help with existing programs and mentors to address those issues.

The Veterans Assistance Project was piloted in Atlantic County in the municipal courts and in the criminal division of Superior Court in December 2008.  It also is in operation in Camden; Cape May; Bergen; Burlington;  Essex; Gloucester; Mercer; Monmouth; Morris; Passaic; Sussex and Union counties.  

More than 400 referrals have been made in those counties since the program began.

The program is geared toward providing services to veterans, not diverting veterans from the courts. Veterans who are charged with indictable and non-indictable offenses, other than minor traffic matters, as well as veterans who are on probation, are eligible to participate in the program.

A video about the Veterans Assistance Project can be found at youtube.com/njcourts

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