It was the end of September, and he had been charged with identity theft and stealing a credit card. For months, Mr. Hernandez, who had served in the U.S. Army, had been trying get into Veterans Treatment Court — a little known program that helps former military personnel who struggle with mental illness, addiction or both.
Mr. Hernandez, 59, used heroin for most of the past 35 years. He had been clean since he overdosed in the spring of 2021, when he had stents and a pacemaker put in to keep his heart beating.
He had already appeared before the judge in August, two weeks after his father died. On that day, he had arrived five hours early because he did not want to miss the proceeding. He had worried that the stress of his father’s death would test his ability to stay clean.
He had managed it, so far. Now, back in the courtroom, he made the sign of the cross.
Photographed for The New York Times, with words by Chelsia Rose Marcius.Veterans Trickle Through a Special New York Court Known Only to a Few
No one knows how many are helped or how much Veterans Treatment Courts in New York cost. Supporters say it gives defendants who were in the armed forces a second chance.