Police departments, veterans groups, and individuals from California to Colorado to Massachusetts are taking similar steps. At the other end of the criminal justice system, a "treatment court" in Buffalo, N.Y., dedicated to veterans opened this year.
The flurry of action is spurred by numbers like these: Some 40,000 cases of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were diagnosed by the military among troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2007. The Rand Corp. estimates 300,000 troops are suffering from PTSD from those wars. Many mental-health experts expect those trends to continue, or even worsen, as the wars go on.
Police Sgt. George Masson in Riverside, Calif. – home to many military families and near several bases – shares those concerns. When he began his career in 1980, he encountered many troubled Vietnam War veterans. Almost 30 years later, those early experiences weigh on him.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," says Sergeant Masson. "We're going to be paying for this for a while."
He helped organize a large, multi-agency training session this year focused on handling troubled veterans. Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton role-played such scenarios as hostage taking and suicide attempts. They invited mental health experts and combat veterans who suffered from traumatic stress to lecture.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Police Department's crisis intervention team has added a segment on veterans to its training, says public information officer Sgt. Wilfred Williams.