Let’s be honest. When you do domestic violence work, you don’t get a lot of wins. Sometimes it seems like we take two steps forward one week, only to go three steps back the next week.
Last week, in Louisville, we had a BIG win. Marta Miranda, President and CEO of the Center for Women and Families, announced a collaborative, innovative effort with the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) called the Lethality Assessment Project. This project has significantly reduced domestic violence homicides in every community where it exists. It is already connecting Louisville’s most high risk domestic violence victims with services at the time they most need them – when they are in crisis.
First, a little background on how this program came to Louisville. At the Mary Byron Project, we believe that one of the keys to ending domestic violence is finding innovative programs in communities across the country that are making an impact. We believe that if these programs can be replicated in other communities, real change will take place. Through our Celebrating Solutions Program, we find these innovations, reward them with a cash grant, and encourage replication in other communities.
In 2010, one of our Celebrating Solutions award winners was the Maryland Lethality Assessment Program. This program trains police officers responding to domestic violence crisis calls to give victims at the scene and 11 question lethality risk assessment. Those that score high on the assessment (meaning they are high risk of serious assault or death), are connected with the local shelter through the police officer immediately. Research shows the 96% of domestic violence homicide victims have NEVER had contact with services. Finding a way to connect these high risk victims with services is a key to reducing homicides. Since its inception, the Maryland program has seen a 40%-50% reduction in domestic violence homicides. The 12 other communities that have replicated the Maryland program have seen similar, equally dramatic, reductions in domestic violence homicides.
Through the dedication of the Center for Women and Families and the LMPD, this program is now in our community. The Center has committed a 24 hour telephone line to be used only for officers to call and connect high risk victims with services. They have also dedicated space to house these high risk victims, even when the shelter is full. LMPD has committed to training its officers to use the lethality assessment tools to help save victims’ lives. In the first three months of operation, officers identified over 200 victims that were at high risk of assault or death. Of those, 175 received services from the Center for Women and Families.
At the Mary Byron Project, we are proud that we were able to help bring this innovative program to our own community. We’re also proud that our community partners saw this as an opportunity collaborate with one another to make a real impact in the lives of domestic violence victims.
Collaboration and innovation equals a big win for Louisville.