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tv   Viewpoint  NBC  March 20, 2016 5:30am-6:01am EDT

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made with a fresh cracked egg and real butter. only at mcdonald's. i'm lovin it. ♪ good morning. welcome to "viewpoint." i'm wendy rieger. no movie or book can fully capture the stress of war or the emotional damage that it can cause to our troops. so today on "viewpoint" we are learning why it's so critical to advocate for our veterans who have served this country at war and then returned home with mental health issues caused by that service. and this morning we are talking about justice for vet and our guests, david pelletier, he's a national mentors manager for vets and melissa fitzgerald, tim wynn who served in the invasion of iraq and he's with the veterans -- he's
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treatment corps graduate. welcome. justice for vets by the way advocating for something called a veterans treatment court. that's something we'll look at, but let's start with the new public service announcement that was just created to help educate the public about this. and you might recognize a number of familiar faces. >> a decade of war has taken an unprecedented toll on our men and women in uniform. most veterans return to our communities as leaders. but everyone's journey home is not the same. >> hundreds of thousands of our veterans are suffering from the trauma of war. >> without assistance, the downward spiral can be quick and destructive. >> it doesn't have to be this way. >> at justice for vets we believe that every veteran should have the opportunity for treatment and restoration. >> justice for vets is the only national organization dedicated to the expansion of veterans treatment courts. >> veterans treatment courts held the veterans accountable for action. >> by providing structure,
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courts help our veterans and their families get their lives back on track up. >> and veterans treatment courts work. >> join us, go to justice for vets.org. >> veterans fought for our freedom. now it's our turn to fight for theirs. thank you. >> that was a west wing flash back for everybody. you'll recognize melissa who got her try from the actors of west wing to do that public service announceme announcement. now you're with justice for vets and what made you leave the stage and come to this new stage? >> well, i co-executive produced a documentary called "halfway home" that previewed the veterans from iraq and they very openly discussed their struggles reintegrate argue experiencing the trauma of war. they very, very openly discussed
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of the men and women that -- well, certainly that we serve are dealing with and that inspired me to want to do more. justice for vets is an incredible organization i had been supporting as an actor and when the opportunity came up to get more deeply involved i jumped at the chance. >> explain what is a veteran's treatment court, david. >> yes, ma'am. so veteran treatment courts they're problem solving courts, they're criminal courts but are based around treatment and up kind of addressing the whole issues and the underlying issues. so you have veterans who have come in contact with the criminal justice system who have an underlying mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. so the treatment court has a
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team and you each got the v.a. and community treatment providers to address those mental health and substance use concerns and it's about creating an environment of healing and recovery. so the veterans, individuals, can then return to society whole and contribute as we know all veterans. >> so it's not -- it sounds like you're getting away from punishment which is what our system tends to do in general. it's all about punishment. >> yes, ma'am. so certainly there is a -- an aspect of accountability. you will find that many of the prantds -- participants will tell you it has more requirements than if they were to have been incarcerated for six months or a year or lodge e where it's a typical routine, you get into the aspect of that. but there's a much great ever focus on the treatment and the rehabilitation rather than punishment. >> when was this created and how difficult was it to create it? >> certainly. so 2008 judge robert russell who
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is a judge in buffalo, new york, has a mental health court and a treatment that was being offered to him. in a moment of exasperation he worked out to two who worked in his courtroom and he said, can you talk to this guy and see what's going on? and those two vietnam veterans took this vietnam veteran out in the hallway. they spent some time together. just shared some camaraderie. some things that oftentimes only veterans can share among themselves and the next time he was in front of judge russell he was looking him in the eye, he was responding with yes, sir, no, sir and judge russell said, do you want help? he said, yes, sir. he went on the graduate their program and become successful. that was the light bulb for judge russell. that was something different, that veterans needed something different, how can we go about it and that was the beginning. >> so
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holistic? >> yes, it is. >> it's based on a drug court model which has been around for 25 years which is the most successful criminal justice model in the history of our country. and veterans treatment courts work. obviously drug courts work and veteran treatment court work as well, they're incredibly successful all over the community and they're working. >> how many do you have across the country? >> 264. >> whoa. >> there are hundreds more in different stages of planning and implementation. >> wow. was that hard to make that connection with those communities or you said they were like begging for it? >> well, i think we do both. >> it's both outreach on our part and then communities that reach out the us and ask how can we do this? part of our involvement came with so many judges reaching out to judge russell and saying, how can we do this same thing? there was just only so much that one man can do while still sitting as a judge. so we have been afforded an amazing opportunity to actually
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communities and to travel across the country and to train these jurisdictions and these treatment providers as well. >> we'll take a quick break. when we come back, tim, because you know what it's like to be at war and then to be -- to go through the courts, we'll whatever your story when we come back. thank you so much. did you say honey?
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s it real? of course... are you? nope animated you know i'm always looking for real honey for honey nut cheerios well you've come to the right place. great, mind if i have another taste? not at all mmm you're all right bud? never better i don't know if he likes that. yeah part of the complete breakfast why let someone else have all the fun?
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never boring fun. the why can't it smell like this all the time fun. the learning the virtue of sharing fun. why let someone else have all the fun? that's no fun. unleash the power of dough. give it a pop. welcome back to "viewpoint." we are talking about a group called justice for vets which uses veterans treatment courts to help a veteran who comes back a little bit broken from war and needs some compassion in case things go awry. and they get involved with the criminal justice system. tim, you know this first hand because you were in iraq, a marine. and came back not with sound mind and body. when did you realize that you had been impacted emotionally by i
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>> it happened pretty fast for me. i ended up at camp lejeune, in north carolina. and within 72 hours i was processed down to the -- out of the marine corps and back in philadelphia. my hometown. four days after that, i was in handcu handcuff, arrested. i didn't realize at time what was going on with me. i know now that it was ptsd and, you know, i was going through some symptoms of, you know, things that i went through. it was attacking me at the moment. >> can you describe that, what that felt like? >> it was very lonely feeling. i didn't feel like i could actually talk to anybody. you know, what i was going to say to my family or my neighbors, people who hadn't experienced it? there was no outlet for it. so i actually -- i used substance, drugs and alcohol, to cope with ptsd. eventually i was arrested seven times prior to being put
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veterans court. and i can't help but think, you know, if veterans court was around when i first got back, you know, i wouldn't have gone through a lot of that stuff. >> what were you arrested for? >> aggravated assault. and then there was -- you know, just violations of probation from the initial charges and it just kept going and going. and, you know, it was -- it was very difficult because, you know, being a veteran and being back in your community just looking for somebody to talk to, that's what veterans court, they provide that. i spent a year of my life in jail after those arrests and, you know, i'm in prison and now i'm really alone. there's really nobody at all to talk to. there was a vietnam vet who worked down in the mental health department inside the prison o wwh who, you know, who would get me out of the cell and come down, sometimes i'd sit in a room with him. we wouldn't say anything to each other, but that's what i needed. i needed to be around othe
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veterans. that was the first time i was introduced to peer to peer support. my final arrest, i was put in veterans court. you know, being i was one of the first marines over in that country, you know, i was naturally one of first to come back. there wasn't anything like this. you know, i'm just so grateful for the veterans court. and people like melissa and justice for vets and i can't speak enough of what it's done for my life. i have gotten so much back in my life. i really lost a lot going through the things that i went through, you know? i even lost my children at the time. my daughter. i have gotten all this back. i'm currently a college student. >> what are you studying? >> behavior health. >> i work with veterans. one of the things than -- that is mind blow, that prison i was locked up in, i'm now in there every monday and friday and i do trauma groups with the veters
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who, you know up, don't have the chance at the moment to get into the veterans court. but hopefully, through spreading the word about veterans courts they will also have the opportunity, but good thing is i'm there for them in the court. you know, i tell them all the time what they're doing and how they're fighting out here for them, you know, and they know people have their back. you know? so a lot has changed since when i was first in the jail. >> can you tell me -- because you went to the regular court and then you went to justice for vets and went to one of the veterans treatment courts what was the difference for you and did you recognize it immediately as you were in it? >> oh, absolutely. i -- in the regular courtroom, you're kind of just another number on the docket. you know, you come in and there's some of the people that are involved in the criminal justice system that, you know, there's really no chance for a veteran to get the help that they need. because our needs are different than some other people. so i remember going to
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veterans day in 2013 i went down to the war memorial in philadelphia and i ran into judge dugan who was an emcee that day. i had seen him speaking and i thought, you know what, this guy actually gets it. you know, he's a vet himself and he's not just the judge. he wants to help you. so i returned to my second court date in veterans court. when i walked in the whole treatment team, they knew my name. they said, how you doing, mr. wynn? i was blown away. i was like, wow, i'm not just another number here, i'm going to get help for first time. >> we have to take a quick break and then i want you to pick up from where you just stopped. we'll be back to hear more from tim. i love your story.
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and you may not know what i'm talking about, but, uh. the yogurt made from your milk, is delicious. mmmm, yoplait.
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and we're talking about veteran treatment courts with justice for vets, and tim, you were -- tim is a former marine, who came back with ptsd after serving in iraq in the very beginning and had some trouble with the law. you finally got from a regular prison, you finally got into one of the veteran treatment courts and you were saying how you made that connection and what a difference it was from being in the traditional courtroom. because they knew your name, you weren't just a number, right? >> absolutely. i was for the first time since returning, you know, i can remember the court date. i was sitting in the hallway and i had my head down. i'm going through this again. and actually the public defender, melissa stango walked by and said, how are you, mr. wynn? and i was like -- it was a relief because people finally cared. they knew i was there and they knew i needed help. when i got into court and
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know, the judge pat dugan in philadelphia, he's also a vet. he's still in the reserves. i was surrounded by veterans again. and there was camaraderie there. i looked to my left and my right and there was my brothers and sisters that were going through the same issue. a lot of times pride gets in the way for veterans. being a marine -- >> really? >> being a marine is hard to admit that. you know? you have some things wrong with you or any branch of the service. being someone, you know, who is used to going and standing up in the face of danger all the time, it's hard to really walk in and say -- in say to the v.a., pride gets in the way, you don't want to admit it. i think going through the judicial system was a great segue into getting the treatment, because all the services are right in the court. you have the v.a. representatives who are right there. djo is a veterans
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outreach officer. they're right inside the courtroom. they can get on the computer and get you an appointment at the v.a. and there's no wait time. so it's just wonderful -- david is talking about the holistic approach. you have the camaraderie back in your life, you have a judge that understands where you have been. he's served in iraq and afghanistan which is pretty unique. so he speaks our language. the prosecutor for a long time was also a veteran. so it's just -- i'm just so grateful and i'm so thankful that these courts are up and running. you know, i didn't get to go into one at first but that's okay because now i do everything i can to spread the word about these courts because there's so many of us still out there that haven't been thrown in the handcuffs yet. >> how do you get past the pride? because you recognize it, do you have a way of finding the words to break through that pride and get to the person
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hunkered down behind it? >> yeah. i think that help comes from, you know, my brothers and sisters. the ones who have been through it. you know, they're right there to help and, you know, easier to go through something when you're with your team again. you know, the camaraderie thing. it's special. it really is. >> well, it's another kind of combat but one that, you know, builds up instead of defeating. >> absolutely. >> yeah. how many people like tim have you been able to serve so far? >> well, i'm thrilled to say that we are currently today there are 13,000 veterans who would otherwise be incarcerated, who are receiving life saving treatment just like what tim got in veterans treatment courts all across the country. i think that's no greater example of why these courts are so greatly needed than tim. i mean, tim is serving other veterans, he's a leader in his community. he's a wonderful father and all those things we
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prior to that. and he also is a great supporter in spreading the word about veterans treatment courts. >> who better? and in fact, something that you said, david, maybe you can address this, is the fact that the judge, he was surrounded by his brothers and sisters in arms. how important is that in recruiting or do you have any say over that or is that just something a no-brainer that organically just sort of occurs when the courts are being put together? >> for the jurisdictions it depends. not every jurisdiction has a judge with military experience or a prosecutor. although we do find oftentimes it may be the bailiff or someone in probation or parole. there are veterans that naturally gravitate to these programs. one of the things that makes veterans treatment court so unique and addresses that, there's a mentor component to this. >> is that part of the outreach? >> part of what i do, my
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volunteers. these are volunteer veterans in the community who are reaching out to their veteran treatment courts and working with these justice involved veterans. and part of what tim talked about that, that pride in getting over that pride and that our experiences and our training sometimes are -- they can be barriers for us like tim was talking about with the pride. they can be leveraged and that camaraderie can be used for healing and the mentors with do that. when the veteran who may have gone through vietnam looks at an -- iraq or afghanistan veteran and says it's okay, you can ask for help, that carries instant weight in a way that doesn't happen unfortunately outside of our community. and so it's phenomenal to be able to train and make those connections. >> great. we'll take another quick break and we'll come back because we have so much more to talk about. this is so wonderful. kathleen matthews: if we want to be heard, we need women in congress.
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coverage in the affordable care act. in congress, i'll fight for pay equity, family leave and tougher gun safety laws. and, as an environmentalist, i'll work combat climate change. i know as a journalist and as a senior executive in business that when women are at the table, we get things done. i'm kathleen mathews and i approve this message. ♪ ♪
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okay very quickly, we were talking about veteran treatment courts and i can't get my ss right or my plurals right. quickly, any in our area? >> there are. there are several in the area, but washington, d.c., still has yet to have a veterans treatment court and we would love to see that happen and justice for vets is here to help. >> where are they in the metropolitan area? >> well, there's baltimore has just opened one up, fairfax county has one. >> prince george's county in maryland. >> and d.c. has to get on the ball. >> i agree, we are here to help because justice for help is the home for all things veterans treatment courts. we assist communities all over the country, and we provide all the training and technical assistance and we'd love to do it in our home. >> how is this good for the taxpayer or the economy? >> saves tons of money. you know, i think veterans treatment courts have something foev
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they save lives. secondly, they honor the service of our veterans. they also saved the taxpayer a tremendous amount of money. it costs far less to rehabilitate someone than it does to incarcerate them and in addition to that, you interrupt the cycle, they're back in the community, paying taxes, being parents, being soccer coaches and being great neighbors. >> they're made whole again. >> that's right. it reduces crime. >> okay. thank you so much, melissa, david, tim. who's going to be graduating soon. are you going -- you're driving back to philly because you have a class you have to take. good for you. good for you. you'll find more about justice for vets and these veterans treatment courts on our website. thank you so much for joining us today on "viewpoint."
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