MU Researches Veterans Involved with Justice System

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COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri is researching ways to provide support to veterans battling substance abuse and veterans in jail.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health states one in six veterans struggle with substance abuse.

MU assistant professor Kelli Canada says veterans sometimes lack the resources they need, which contributes to more arrests.

Canada also says social workers at MU can provide support to veterans through research, education, outreach and advocacy, allowing them to connect veterans with helpful resources rather than criminalizing them.

"What we found is that social workers can play a lot of different roles, so they can do case management roles to help people connect with services that will make their transition through the criminal justice system much smoother," said Canada.

She said social workers also help people in the prison environment transition back into the community with the re-entry program.

"The majority of the veterns will never come in contact with the criminal justice system," said Canada. "For the veterans that are at high risk, there are a lot of service opportunities that can help keep them out of the criminal justice system by getting them connected to services."

Canada said at the VA they have a veteran justice outreach worker to go into the jail and talk with veterans about the services they need and work with families to get veterans in programs like the Veteran Treatment Court. She also says veteran treatment courts, which are similar to to drug treatment and mental health courts, also have teams to help veterans battling substance use.

MU offers a military social work graduate certificate through the College of Human Environmental Sciences.

"What is great about The University of Missouri is that we have a number of experts and individuals interested in the military with veterans in their families, so we are able to work with a variety of faculty," said coordinator of graduate social work certificate David Albright. "He is also an assistant professor of social work ans says the faculty can "pool resources and expertise to best train people who are interest in working with the population."

The certificate teaches strategies for working with military personnel and families and is available to graduate students and current social work practitioners with both online and on-campus options.