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Veterans Assistance Project Begins in Monmouth County

For immediate release: October 1, 2010
For further information contact:
At the Judiciary: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig 609-292-9580
At DMAVA: Maj. Yvonne Mays 609-530-6939
Kryn P. Westhoven 609-530-6950

A program to assist military veterans who enter the court system has begun in Monmouth County.

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.

“Monmouth County has among the highest number of veterans in the state, so the expansion of the Veterans Assistance Project into Monmouth County will enable us to help veterans, who have sacrificed in defense of our country, get the assistance they need,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said. “We will continue to work with other agencies and service organizations toward that end.”

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.

“The expansion of this program to Monmouth County extends this vital service into a key region of Central New Jersey,” 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 Monmouth 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; Cumberland; Bergen; Burlington;  Essex; Gloucester; Mercer; Morris; Passaic; Salem; 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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