The History

Hon. Robert Russell, Buffalo Veterans Treatment CourtThe first Veterans Treatment Court was founded by the Honorable Robert Russell in Buffalo, New York in January, 2008, after he noticed an increase in the number of veterans appearing on his Drug Court and Mental Health Court dockets. Judge Russell saw firsthand the transformative power of military camaraderie when veterans on his staff assisted a veteran in one of his treatment courts, but also recognized that more could be done to ensure veterans were connected to benefits and treatment earned through military service. In response, Judge Russell asked his local U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and volunteer veterans in the community to join in creating a new court docket that would focus exclusively on justice-involved veterans. 

As of June 30, 2014 there are  220 Veterans Treatment Courts in our country with hundreds more in the planning stages. They involve cooperation and collaboration with traditional partners found in Drug Courts and Mental Health Courts, such as the Judge Russell ensures veterans in court receive the treatment and services they have earnedprosecutor, defense counsel, treatment provider, probation, and law enforcement. Added to this interdisciplinary team are representatives of the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefit Administration– as well as State Departments of Veterans Affairs, Vet Centers, Veterans Service Organizations, Department of Labor, volunteer Veteran Mentors, and other veterans support groups. Veterans Treatment Courts admit only those veterans with a clinical diagnosis of a substance abuse and/or mental health disorder.