RICH JAMES: Show compassion for Lake County's troubled vets

2013-03-25T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Show compassion for Lake County's troubled vetsBy Rich James nwitimes.com
March 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

This is one of those stories that gives government a bad name.

We’re talking about the creation of a Lake County veterans court.

It is something Porter County started more than a year ago. And it is something Lake County Sheriff John Buncich and others have been working on for a year.

Things were looking good when state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, added the creation of the veterans court to a bill last month. It would have diverted some of the money now going to Geminus Corp. to fund the court.

But Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, killed the proposal because the Indiana Commission on Courts had not determined the need for the court.

Common sense tells us there is no question about need. But then, government often treats common sense as a four-letter word.

And if a need was established for a Porter County veterans court, can there be any doubt about Lake County, especially with a Veterans Affairs clinic a mile from the jail?

Lake County has hundreds of veterans returning home from wars. And because of the scarcity of jobs, veterans sometimes turn to drugs and then crime to support their habits. And some also go without treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Buncich said he sees them coming into the jail but there’s no way to single them out and direct them to treatment. Buncich said a troubled veteran isn't just another drunk or crack head.

That’s where the veterans court comes into play. But when he killed the bill to establish the court, Steele said the Lake County veterans will have to fall through the cracks for another year.

That’s not good enough. If we don’t have compassion for troubled veterans, do we have compassion for anyone?

State law can be quirky. Apparently a county can establish a veterans court on its own, subject to certification by the state after the fact. But the county also would have to come up with its own funding.

I see that responsibility falling to the 16 judges of the Lake Superior Court system.

Although it doesn’t much matter where the funding comes from, the judiciary has more loose change floating around than the rest of county government.

Regardless, Lake County government needs to establish the court, rather than find excuses as to why it can’t. The savings from not incarcerating many veterans would be tremendous.

Lake County needs to tell Steele and the rest of the legislators we are a cut above and we care.

If government can’t serve the people, then what good is it? And no one needs service more than a veteran who got his discharge papers and a pat on the back … and nothing more.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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