North Shore-LIJ Endows $200,000 Scholarship/Fellowship Fund at Touro Law Center

Date: April 11, 2014
Media Contact:

Patti Desrochers
Director of Communications
(631) 761-7062

Central Islip, N.Y. - The North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Foundation and Law & Psychiatry Institute have established a $200,000 endowment to fund a scholarship and summer fellowship program that will focus on educating students at the Touro Law Center on the legal challenges facing veterans. The endowment is named in honor of Sol Wachtler, a life trustee of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, former chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, a longtime member of the Touro Law Center’s Board of Governors and a Korean War Army veteran.

The endowment includes $90,000 to be allocated to a fund supporting an annual scholarship that will be awarded to a Touro Law student who is a veteran or is focusing on studying veterans’ issues, mental health or disability law, according to an agreement announced today by North Shore-LIJ and Touro Law Center, based in Central Islip, NY. The endowment also will create a separate $90,000 fund that will sponsor an annual summer fellowship for a student to work at Touro Law’s Veterans’ and Servicemembers’ Rights Clinic or at another location that focuses on veterans’ law and mental health. In addition to the scholarship and fellowship, the donation will provide $20,000 to fund a conference focusing on the intersection of veterans’ mental health and legal issues.

Over the last several years, Judge Wachtler and the North Shore-LIJ Law & Psychiatry Institute have collaborated with Chief Judge Lippman, the Unified Court System of New York, the Veterans' Administration, and the District Attorneys of Kings, Queens and Nassau counties to support the establishment of county-based Veterans’ Mental Health Courts. These courts are designed to divert veterans with mental health disorders, including substance abuse, who have committed nonviolent criminal offenses from incarceration to behavioral health evaluation and treatment.

“We owe a tremendous debt to our servicemen and women for the extraordinary sacrifices they make in our defense,” said New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. “I commend former Chief Judge Wachtler for his continued support of this important program, which serves to equip aspiring attorneys with specialized tools and knowledge in an effort to better address the unique legal needs of our returning veterans.”

Patricia Salkin, Dean of Touro Law Center, said the new endowment will enhance the services already being provided by Touro Law’s Veterans' and Servicemembers' Rights Clinic, which helps veterans charged with criminal offenses by diverting them from the traditional criminal justice system and providing them with the tools they need to live productive lives, through treatment and judicial monitoring. "This scholarship fund establishes a legacy that recognizes and honors the commitment of Judge Wachtler to veterans' courts and veterans in need, including those whose service to our country has resulted in or contributed to psychiatric, neuropsychiatric or psychosocial issues," said Dean Salkin.

The creation of the endowment is part of North Shore-LIJ’s ongoing commitment to help military veterans and their family members. In addition to supporting the Touro Law initiatives, the health system has established veteran-focused treatment programs, including a first-of-its-kind collaboration – supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- with the US Department of Veterans' Affairs to provide coordinated behavioral health care to veterans and their families under one roof at a unified treatment center in Bay Shore, NY. Last year, North Shore-LIJ created a business employee resource group, called Veterans and Allies: Liaisons of Reintegration (VALOR), to provide a sense of community to military personnel, their families, veterans and those interested in veterans’ affairs. VALOR also organizes veterans’ employment workshops. In a reflection of its support for veterans, since 2010 the North Shore-LIJ Health System has nearly tripled the number of veterans hired annually, to 124 in 2013. For these and other efforts supporting veterans, North Shore-LIJ has been recognized as one of the nation’s most veteran-friendly employers.

“As our military service men and women return from recent combat theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan and reintegrate into civilian life, it is important to continue to raise awareness of the challenges facing veterans and their families, especially if their lives become entangled in our legal system, often as a consequence of an underlying behavioral health issue like post-traumatic stress disorder," said Blaine Greenwald, MD, chair of the medical advisory committee for the North Shore-LIJ Law and Psychiatry Institute, which engages in advocacy, education, program development and clinically related initiatives intended to bridge the divide between the criminal justice and mental health systems. "This scholarship, fellowship and conference will help future legal professionals learn how to advocate for our veterans, and ensure that those afflicted with mental illness who have broken the law are properly evaluated and treated -- and not mistakenly criminalized."