METAIRIE – Yesterday afternoon, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) met with judges on Louisiana’s 22nd Judicial District Court (JDC) to discuss specialty courts, including their Veterans Court. They had a conversation about how specialty courts give offenders an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves instead of going to prison.
“There is a young veteran in St. Tammany struggling with addiction and crime, who will be made whole by specialty courts,” said Dr. Cassidy. “They will help him find treatment, get a job and an education, and reconnect with his family. They give people hope and restore our communities.”
The 22nd JDC Veterans Court was started in April 2017, for veterans facing prosecution for one or more criminal cases. It offers treatment options that are judicially supervised to break drug and alcohol addictions. It also connects veterans with benefits they may be owed, whether they’re VA health care benefits, disability ratings, or educational benefits through the GI Bill. Upon completion of the program, veterans graduate in an official ceremony.
The 22nd JDC also has specialty courts for people struggling with substance abuse, whether it’s drugs or alcohol, and behavioral health. A re-entry court also prepares incarcerated offenders to return to society. It includes substance abuse treatment, as well as instruction in life skills, vocational training and HISET instruction.
Cassidy himself has been a champion for mental health services. In 2016, Cassidy successfully included his Mental Health Reform Act in the 21st Century Cures Act, which was approved by Congress and signed into law. His bill created an Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use, helps integrate physical and mental health care systems, and supports opioid abuse prevention and treatment. Also last November, Cassidy passed and had signed into law his Solid Start Act, which requires the VA to contact veterans within their first year of separation from the military to connect them with VA programs and benefits, including mental health resources.
Among the judges at the meeting was Judge Raymond Childress, the District Judge for Division “A” of the 22nd JDC and Presiding Judge of the 22nd JDC Veterans Court.
“On behalf of my Veterans Court team and myself, I would like to thank Senator Cassidy and his staff for taking the time to visit with us to learn about our Veterans Court,” said Judge Childress. “We were happy to share with Senator Cassidy the story of our Veterans Court from the inception to the present, the various phases of the program our Veterans participate in, our accomplishments, and what our plans are going forward. We always believe our mission is to serve those who have served us.”
Earlier, Cassidy addressed the Tangipahoa Chamber of Commerce at their June Membership Lunch. He went in depth on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), encouraging attendees to take advantage of available funding in the bill. He specifically discussed the resources provided to connect rural Louisiana with high-speed internet, mitigate for flooding, support carbon capture and blue hydrogen projects, and support workforce development at technical colleges.
“The Northshore has entrepreneurs and innovators who can use the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to create jobs and opportunity for our neighbors. That starts with better roads and bridges,” said Dr. Cassidy. “It continues with connecting rural towns to broadband and young people to workforce training programs. That will ensure a brighter future for all of us.”
Cassidy also took several questions regarding the IIJA and his plan to save Social Security while repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO). He was welcomed by Ms. Melissa Bordelon, IOM, President and CEO of the Chamber.
“We are so pleased that U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy was able to share key info on federal issues with our Tangipahoa Chamber members,” said Ms. Bordelon. “Our members welcomed the opportunity to discuss issues such as investments being made in affordable and reliable high-speed internet access for our rural communities, improvements for roads and bridges, and Social Security taxes.”