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Local officials applaud Gov. Brown's signing of PTSD bill for veterans

The side of the Bakersfield Vet Center is seen Aug. 8, 2017, in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo/Lexi Wilson)

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that gives veterans a chance to receive treatment instead of jail time when charged with a misdemeanor DUI.

It is called the Pre-Trail Diversion Program.

The court will look at the misdemeanors as a mental health issue rather than a criminal case.

Eyewitness News spoke with veterans who say that living with post-traumatic stress disorder is not easy.

"In uniform, it was often that we drank, and in my case being a combat veteran, it was more than often," said Joe Acosta, veteran and director of the Bakersfield Vet Center. "It was a habit because that was the only way I could deal with the trauma of combat."

The treatment is meant to help veterans not repeat another DUI, while keeping a clean record.

"I did get my DUI, and I sat in the jail saying, 'I'm better than this. I should not be here. I am a leader of men,'" said Acosta. "Treatment is teaching you to behave differently, and its not just punishment, but it's education. If you learn the error of your ways, you won't do it again."

Dick Taylor, director of the Kern County Veterans Service Department, said they are excited that the bill will help veterans.

"I think that we as a community can get behind it, again keeping in mind that we certainly want veterans to drink and drive responsibility," said Taylor.

Acosta said this bill is a step forward for the veteran community.

"Even in baseball, you get to have one strike. Even in football, you get to have a couple of fumbles, and if we allow that in the sports we love so much, we should allow it to our citizens also," said Acosta.

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