EDITORIAL: Military responsible for some addictions

York Dispatch

York County veterans are lucky to have Craig Trebilcock on their side.

As a colonel in the Army Reserves, he isn't afraid to speak truth to power. That is: The military bears some responsibility for creating the addictions plaguing former service members.

And as a judge overseeing York County's veterans treatment court, Trebilcock is in a position to break the cycle — to give these men and women second shot at becoming productive citizens.

Trebilcock says he sees it as an opportunity to right a wrong.

"Soldiers are getting injured in Afghanistan or Iraq and are being prescribed highly addictive opiate painkillers, even for non-serious injuries ... like a twisted knee," he explains. "Then they're being passed back to the military system and they keep getting these prescriptions. So they start acting badly because when you're drugged up, you don't get out of bed and go to work."

Odds are, they're then less-than-honorably discharged, meaning they aren't eligible for drug rehabilitation treatment through Veterans Affairs clinics, according to Trebilcock.

"So then this soldier returns to Central Pennsylvania with a bad discharge, addicted to opioids, and ends up in the back of a police car," the judge says. "He's not a bad person — he or she — but he's an addict."

Trebilcock created York County's veterans treatment court — the first in Pennsylvania — in 2012 to offer veterans intensive counseling instead of prison time. Program participants must undergo intensive therapy and treatment, and attend meetings several times per month.

In exchange for their successful completion of the treatment, the judge can downgrade the severity of their crimes. For example, a felony might become a misdemeanor and a misdemeanor might be dismissed.

The treatment court saves taxpayer money that would otherwise be spent on incarceration, and studies have shown the recidivism rate is significantly lower for those who have completed the intensive program.

It has been so successful state lawmakers are considering mandating all counties create veterans treatment courts — using York County's as a model.

In his role as an officer in the Army Reserves — he just returned from a year-long activation — Trebilcock hopes to help change the military from the inside, so soldiers are properly treated for their addictions before they return to their communities.

We wish him the best on that front and continued success here at home.

"Thanks for your service" is nice, but our veterans need and deserve much more than lip service.