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Congressman Charlie Crist visits Pinellas County's veterans treatment court

By Laura Morel
Published: February 5, 2018
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, is introduced at a town hall meeting on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, at the St. Petersburg College Clearwater Arts Auditorium where he invited the community to ask questions about issues they would like him to advocate on their behalf in Washington in the fall when Congress returns from its break. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]

Congressman Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, visited Pinellas County’s veterans treatment court on Monday morning 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 VA that would provide grants and training to local governments so they can develop and maintain veterans treatment courts. Congressman Jeff Denham, R-California, is also sponsoring the bill.

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 helps 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.