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Congressman Charlie Crist touts Pinellas’ veterans treatment court

The Pinellas-Pasco circuit court has been helping veterans facing non-violent charges get drug and mental health treatment. Crist is sponsoring a bill in Congress to give all veterans that kind of second chance.
Congressman Charlie Crist, seen here at a town hall meeting last year, is sponsoring a bill to open veterans' courts to help with drug and mental health treatment across the country. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
Congressman Charlie Crist, seen here at a town hall meeting last year, is sponsoring a bill to open veterans' courts to help with drug and mental health treatment across the country. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Feb. 5, 2018

LARGO — Congressman Charlie Crist visited Pinellas County's veterans treatment court on Monday in the midst of his push in Washington D.C. to expand funding for these kinds of programs nationwide.

The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act would create a partnership between the Department of Justice and the Department of Veterans Affairs  that would provide grants and training to local governments so they can develop and maintain veterans treatment courts. Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, is co-sponsor of the bill with Congressman Jeff Denham, R-California.

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Monday was Crist's first time in a veterans treatment court. He watched as Pinellas Circuit Judge Dee Anna Farnell called several veterans up to the lectern to speak with her about their cases.

Founded in 2013, the Pinellas-Pasco circuit's court program has helped veterans charged with non-violent misdemeanors or felonies get the drug or mental health treatment they need.

If they successfully complete treatment, their charges are dismissed.

"It really is an 'all hands on deck' effort and you can see that. I think only through that cooperation do our veterans get the services that they truly deserve," Crist said, adding that the veterans court in Pinellas is "unique."

"I think what's important and incumbent on all of us is to do everything we can to expand this kind of outreach to our veterans," he said.

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