Velis: Veterans’ Treatment Court fills a critical need


Hope you’re all doing well! The Big E began this Friday, so bunker down the hatches and prepare for traffic! For anyone who may not know, the Big E, formally known as the Eastern States Exposition, is billed as “New England’s Great State Fair.” Running for 17 days, it is the largest agricultural event on the eastern seaboard and the sixth-largest fair in the nation. So many local vendors will be at the fair, as well, and I hope everybody attending has a great time

It was great to join the Russell Police Department for a lovely Family Fun Day last Sunday at Strathmore Park. Always fantastic to be outside enjoying the weather and talking to so many constituents. Many thanks to the department for organizing!

This past Monday, I met with mentors for the Veterans’ Treatment Court. The goal of Veterans’ Treatment Courts is to divert those with mental health issues and homelessness from the traditional justice system to give them treatment and tools for rehabilitation and readjustment. This court model requires regular court appearances, as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and frequent testing for substance use, while still allowing the veteran to remain in their community. Mentors are a critical support for veterans in this process, and we had a great discussion about how they work alongside court officials and the district attorney’s office to be as effective as possible. On Monday I also met with Ascentria Care, an organization that provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrants. So many Afghan citizens worked alongside our military forces in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, and right now Ascentria Care is focusing their efforts on helping these refugees evacuate and come to the United States.

On Tuesday my office welcomed Katherine Pinney, a senior at Westfield State University, as an intern for this fall. She’s a political science and economics double-major, with a concentration in public administration and a minor in policy and ethics. I’d had the pleasure of meeting Katherine briefly in 2018 and again in 2019 when Westfield State’s Student Government Association invited me to speak at their meetings. We are looking forward to having her on our team! On Tuesday I also had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Linda Thompson, Westfield State University’s new president, to discuss the university’s preparations and plans for this coming year.

I want to congratulate the Holyoke city Office of Planning and Economic Development on the ribbon cutting of ValleyBike Share in Holyoke this past Friday. ValleyBike Share is designed to promote short bike trips within core communities such as Amherst, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton, South Hadley and Springfield. These communities, alongside the University of Massachusetts and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, have contracted a collaboration and partnership with Bewegen Technologies and Corps Logistics to bring a bikeshare to our region. While I couldn’t attend the ribbon cutting, I was able to be a part of Constitution Day at Roberta G. Doering Middle School in Agawam on Friday. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with the sixth grade class about our democratic institutions and how to get involved in our public policy process. Plenty of future leaders in our communities!

On Saturday, my office presented a Senate citation to the Westfield Woman’s Club for their grand re-opening. The new club has received a number of handicap accessibility upgrades and I look forward to seeing residents using the building again. Later in the day, my office presented a another Senate citation to St. Mary’s for their 2nd annual Founder’s Day. I was glad Team Velis could help recognize the Rev. Creane and Sister Lavoie for all their achievements and work for the parish and school.

As always, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please never hesitate to reach out to my office. I can be reached at my email,?[email protected], or by phone, 413-572-3920, and you can find me online at senatorjohnvelis.com, where you can also sign up for my newsletter.


John Velis, D-Westfield, represents Agawam, Easthampton, Granville, Holyoke, Montgomery, Russell, Southampton, Southwick, Russell, Tolland, Westfield and part of Chicopee in the state Senate.

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