State’s third veterans treatment court to open in Lawrence

A veterans treatment court will open in Lawrence next week, the third in Massachusetts initiated to provide probation and treatment programs for ex-service members.

The Essex County Veterans Treatment Court will seek to treat veterans in the criminal justice system affected by traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, and mental health problems, according to presiding Judge Kevin J. Gaffney.

Gaffney, who retired from the Army Reserve with the rank of captain in July, volunteered to establish and preside over the court.

"We have a duty as a nation and as a court system to help address these issues," Gaffney said.


Veterans will be considered for the program if they are in the district courts system and are eligible for probation, according to Gaffney.

Those who enter the program will be assigned a mentor who is also a veteran, he said.

"What the program will be is an intensive 18- to 24-month program which will require: one, strict accountability; two, complete sobriety; and three, full compliance with any treatment protocol that has been designed for this particular veteran," Gaffney said.

The veterans treatment court is one of four types of specialty courts in Massachusetts, along with drug, homeless, and mental health courts, according to a statement from the state Supreme Judicial Court. The two other veterans treatment courts in Massachusetts operate from Dedham District Court and Boston Municipal Court.

A ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Lawrence District Court to commemorate the opening, the SJC said. A keynote speech will be given by State Secretary of Veterans' Services Francisco A. Ureña.

The court will open officially on Nov. 5, Gaffney said.

Sarah Roberts can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @heysarahroberts.