Giving Opioid Addicted Veterans a Second Chance
Advocacy The prevalence of chronic opioid use in young veterans has been on the rise in recent years, but intensive treatment for addiction and mental health issues is sure to change this.
Nearly half of all troops returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from chronic pain, frequently combined with Post Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain injury. These soldiers are often prescribed highly addictive opiate painkillers, which can lead to substance abuse. Other vets struggling to cope with traumatic after-effects of war find prescription drugs illegally on the streets.
Former Marine Sgt. Nick Stefanovic would never have imagined he would end up a jailed-addict. He served two tours in Afghanistan. Coming home, he struggled with sleep and suffered from feelings of sheer panic. “I was really angry. The nightmares crippled me,” said Stefanovic.
Desperate to ease his pain, Nick found he could easily get opiates on the streets. Soon addicted, he turned to its cheaper sister, heroin.
"Soldiers are often prescribed highly addictive opiate painkillers, which can lead to substance abuse."
“There was a point in my drug use, where I didn’t care if I lived or died,” said Nick who began forging checks to feed his addiction. His arrest ultimately saved his life as it landed him in the Rochester Veterans Treatment Court.
Veterans Treatment Courts hold veterans accountable, yet dig deeper into the “why” behind their actions by providing intensive treatment for addiction and mental health issues.
“Veterans go back to school, find jobs, and reconnect with their families,” said Melissa Fitzgerald, Senior Director of Justice For Vets. “More than 11,000 veterans who would otherwise languish behind bars are receiving life-saving treatment in Veterans Treatment Courts.”
Today, Stefanovic is a Veterans Treatment Court graduate, married and working on his master’s degree in Public Administration. “My story is not unique, but I was lucky. There are too many counties without Veterans Treatment Courts. Veterans who don’t have this opportunity don’t have a future.”
West Wing Women Take a Stand
Allison Janney, Melissa Fitzgerald and Janel Moloney first became close as castmates on “The West Wing.” Now, they have bonded together in support of veterans’ rights. We asked the three friends why they have all chosen to support Justice For Vets.
Mediaplanet: Why have you chosen to support Justice For Vets?
Allison Janney: I care deeply about our nations’ veterans and my heart goes out to the ones who are struggling here at home. When my dear friend Melissa Fitzgerald took on the role as Justice For Vets’ senior director and shared the miracles taking place in Veterans Treatment Courts, I was inspired to support Justice For Vets in its’ mission to put a Veterans Treatment Court within reach of every veteran in need.
Melissa Fitzgerald: It’s one of the greatest honors of my life to be part of an organization that is having a profound impact on veterans and their families. Veterans Treatment Courts not only offer accountability, but they’re transforming the courtroom into places of hope, healing and restoration. Allison and Janels’ support is a gift and I find it incredibly meaningful to work with people I love.
Janel Moloney: Allison, Melissa and I became family on “The West Wing” and it’s a privilege to work together on behalf of veterans. Veterans Treatment Courts are nationally recognized as the most innovative and an effective solution to saving veterans’ lives. I’m proud to be part of this movement.