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Co-Occurring Disorders and Military Justice

Justice Involved Veterans with Co-Occurring Disorders

More than two million members of the U.S. Armed Forces have been deployed since 2001 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. Many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have developed post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and alcohol or substance use disorders after returning from deployment. Combat exposure, multiple deployments, and reduced time between deployments are some of the factors that contribute to the development of behavioral health disorders. Family strife, high unemployment, lack of treatment access, and stigma associated with services only increases the distress experienced by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veterans represent ten percent of inmates in state prisons and local jails. Many have mental and substance use disorders. One study of veterans in a large jail system found that:

  • One in three had a mood, schizophrenia spectrum, or combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder
  • One in two abused or were dependent on alcohol and nearly two in three abused or were dependent on drugs
  • One in three suffered from a serious medical condition
  • One in five were experiencing chronic homelessness at the time of incarceration
  • Three in four were unemployed at the time of incarceration

Yet many veterans do not seek behavioral health services. Both during deployment and after homecoming, many service members and veterans experienced stigma around receiving services. Only two of every five eligible veterans receive VA healthcare services, and only half of those referred to VA behavioral health services keep their initial appointment. Compared with homeless veterans in the community, jailed veterans obtained fewer services, if they received anything at all.

Are you a behavioral health practitioners and criminal justice professionals interested in improving the community response to veterans with mental and substance use disorders who are in the justice system? If so, click on the links below to learn more

Resources and Links