Veterans bills signed into law; focus on mental health, substance abuse help

Photo provided by KADN staff.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 4:29pm

Today, Governor Bobby Jindal signed a pair of bills that protects and preserves the dignity of military funerals (SB 72) and that helps identify existing mental health and substance abuse support services for veteran offenders who are in the legal system (SB 32). Both pieces of legislation are part of the Governor’s 2013 Legislative Package.

Governor Jindal said, “Our veterans put their lives on the line each day in defense of our freedom and our values. Those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice deserve the utmost respect, and both they and their families have earned the right to a proper and dignified burial, free from disruptions. Those who’ve come back have earned access to the care and services they need to get back on their feet here at home, and we should do everything we can to provide the best resources to our brave service men and women.”

SB 72—authored by Senator Francis Thompson and Representative Henry Burns—helps protect grieving families of veterans by creating a buffer zone that prohibits the disruption or obstruction of a funeral procession, funeral or burial.

Under the bill, protests within 300 feet of a funeral, memorial service or burial are prohibited, and any obstructions within 500 feet of the event are also prohibited. In addition, protests or any disruptive behavior on procession routes to the funeral, memorial service or burial are barred.

The protective buffer zone will be effective from two hours before the service until two hours after the service, and SB 72 raises the fine for disruption of funeral and memorial services and routes from $100 to up to $500.

SB 32—authored by Senator A.G. Crowe—assists in identifying rehabilitative resources available to veteran offenders at sentencing.

The legislation helps veterans access veteran-specific mental health or substance abuse services by granting judges when sentencing veteran defendants the authority to require that the Department of Corrections partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify existing support programs.

This will help ensure the opportunity exists to offer mental health and/or substance abuse treatment specifically tailored for veteran offenders if treatment is appropriate, ultimately helping to reduce recidivism rates among Louisiana’s veteran population.

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