The White House

Office of the National Drug Control Policy

White House Drug Policy Director Kerlikowske Highlights Obama Administration Support for Military Families and Veterans During Visit to Buffalo, NY

Buffalo, NY – Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, visited the Buffalo Veterans Drug Treatment Court to discuss the unique treatment and support services needs of Veterans struggling with substance abuse, and the Obama Administration’s unprecedented support for military families and veterans.

During the visit, Kerlikowske discussed with local officials how the Federal Government and state and local agencies are working together to support veterans by diverting veterans with drug-related offences from criminal courts to veterans courts. In these specialized courts, veterans are being successfully provided with vital resources and support including treatment, medical care, mental health services, and connections with vocational training. At the court, Kerlikowske met with program graduates, volunteers, Veterans Court Judge Robert Russell; Jack Quinn, President, Erie Community College; and William Feely, Director, Veterans Affairs Hospital of Western New York. Kerlikowske also discussed the recent release of Presidential Study Directive-9, Strengthening our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment, the Obama Administration’s plan for improved coordination and Federal support for military families and veterans.

“Far too many brave men and women who have risked their lives in service to our country are now suffering from physical, mental health, and substance abuse problems,” said Director Kerlikowske “We have an obligation to care for our veterans and to improve their lives by increasing access to vital treatment services specifically geared toward our military heroes."

Since 2001, over two million service members have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq – with many being deployed multiple times. This has resulted in strain to the Services, service members, and their families. According to the most recent survey from the Department of Justice, nearly 60percent of the 140,000 Veterans in Federal and state prisons are struggling with a substance use disorder, and 25percent reported being under the influence of drugs at the time of their offense.

A renewed focus on substance abuse prevention and treatment for veterans is a major component of the Obama Administration’s effort to implement a public health approach to reducing drug abuse and its consequences. The President’s FY 2012 budget request includes an increase of $33 million in funding for treatment programs located in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers, residential rehabilitation facilities, and outpatient clinics. Reflecting the Administration’s commitment to end homelessness and provide compassionate and caring treatment to veterans, the VHA is increasing support for treating substance abuse in mental health settings.