Axel Rodriguez served our country by working within the explosive unit during the Gulf War. He integrated into civilian society rather seamlessly, and worked as a medical assistant in the hospital. In 2011, after a break-up with his girlfriend, his life spiraled downhill.  He became addicted to drugs and committed low level crimes.

 

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When I first met him in April of 2014, he was in custody for sleeping in a stolen car while possessing meth.  His criminal history was fueled by his addition and exacerbated by his homelessness.  Axel no longer had any family would help him because addiction has changed him in ways that eroded any trust that they had in him.

Rather than cycling him out of the system, only to return again, I advised Axel to go to Veterans Court. He pled to a misdemeanor charge on the condition that he attend the programs offered by the VA while making weekly court appearances. Veteran’s court has been more strenuous than a short stint in jail. On a weekly basis, he provides urine samples, attends several group meetings, and comes to court. The past year has had its challenges.

There have been relapses and setbacks, but on the whole, Axel looks a million times better than when I first met him. I hope he is able to transition successfully out of the program one day, and live a life free from drugs.

PBS highlighted the progress made in Veterans court and Axel’s story.  See the link below.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/special-courts-take-criminal-cases-veterans-struggling-trauma/