Posted: Dec 31, 2016
"When I was accepted into the veterans' court, it was the first time I was treated like I wasn't just a number in the system," Ress said.
|(AP Photo/LM Otero). |
In this Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 photo, U.S. Army Veteran Richard Ress, right,
speaks during a bible group meeting at his rural church in Grayson County, Texas.
ANNA, Texas (AP) - In the Army, Richard Ress survived duty in some of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan, but on a July day in 2009, he seemed ready for his life to end in the back of a Texas police car facing his third drunken-driving arrest in less than a year.
According to the arrest report, Ress asked the officer "to shoot him and get it over with." He was struggling with flashbacks and nightmares associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, which went untreated during four months in jail. A few years later, in 2015, he got a fourth DWI.
"I knew I couldn't continue like this because I was going to die," he said.
That's when Ress was flagged for a program that aims to divert certain veterans facing criminal charges into treatment programs instead of sending them through the criminal court system. And rather than requiring veterans to travel to court appearances, this court travels to reach them in five counties near Dallas.
Judge John Roach Jr. said the court is a first of its kind, and he hopes it will be replicated in other rural areas without public transportation, where getting to hearings can be a challenge.
"This is not an easy program. I expect a lot, and I expect commitment. But getting to court, having access to the services, that shouldn't be the issue that prevents a veteran in one county from getting treatment available to a veteran in another county," Roach said.
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