BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Kern County Board of Supervisors is recognizing the accomplishments of a program that has been giving veterans a second chance for 10 years.
It’s called the Vernon Valenzuela Veteran Justice Program and it provides legal assistance to veterans who need help transitioning back into society. The Kern County Board of Supervisors recognized November 2021 as the 10-year anniversary of the veteran’s justice program’s inception.
Supervisors brought members of the program to congratulate and recognize their decade worth of achievements.
“The Veterans Justice Program is an example of actual transformation within the court system and how we assess and treat our beloved veterans,” Leticia Perez the supervisor for the fifth district on the board said.
The Veteran’s Justice Program was founded by Vernon Valenzuela and Randy Dickow. A decade ago, Dickow was the leader of the Kern County Bar Association’s Indigent Defense Program. The veteran justice program helps veterans who are struggling with PTSD and legal issues.
“We have special programs through the Bakersfield Vet Center,” Dickow said. “Rather than incarceration we have counseling and treatment. So far we have had over 700 veterans go through the program and we’ve had no failures.”
Armando Trujillo was the first veteran to go through the program. Now he has a master’s degree and is the veteran’s educational advisor at Bakersfield College.
“Understand that we have readjustment issues and that incarceration isn’t always the solution to that,” Trujillo said.
Dickow and Trujillo say no veteran is alone and there is help available.
“Well if you have a veteran that’s suffering from PTSD, regardless if they’re in the criminal justice program,” Dickow said. “Get him or her to the Vet center. There is help available. You do not have to live with it.”
If you know of a veteran who could use help you can contact your local Veteran Center.
The following are the contact details to the Kern County veteran service department.
Bakersfield main office: 661-868-7300
County Toll-free Phone: 866-218-5367