New Pierce County Drug Court to help veterans

Military veterans with drug-dependency problems will benefit from a treatment program thanks to a federal grant that enables Pierce County Superior Court to establish a Veterans Drug Court.

The three-year, $300,000-per-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration provides an enhancement and expansion of the Pierce County Drug Court.

Pierce County is home to more than 95,000 veterans, making it one of the largest veteran populations in the nation. Among them, a large percentage is recent veterans of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new program will serve veterans who have become involved with the criminal justice system, are determined to be drug dependent and who in many cases suffer from combat-related mental disorders.

Veterans Drug Court will provide a dedicated treatment program in tandem with the Pierce County Alliance, a non-profit social service agency located in Tacoma. The Pierce County Alliance specializes in providing substance abuse and mental health services for individuals, families and the community, and it is a longtime treatment provider for Drug Court.

In addition, the new drug court will work in partnership with federal and state veterans’ offices, government agencies and community organizations to access the range of services needed to stabilize the veteran and ultimately to reintegrate them into the community through viable employment, safe shelter and, when needed, reunification with families.

Pierce County’s Drug Court was formed in 1994. Superior Court Judge Gary Steiner presides over Pierce County’s Drug Court. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army, a Superior Court judge since 1981 and the recipient of the Washington State Bar Association’s 2006 Judge of the Year Award.