| The Columbus Dispatch
A collaboration among several Franklin County agencies received a $900,000 award for a new safety model to combat domestic violence and protect victims.
The 2020 Improving Criminal Justice Responses to Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office for Violence Against Women, will establish the Blueprint for Safety model through September 2023, Franklin County and Columbus officials announced Tuesday morning.
Originally developed and implemented in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the new model will create a more-coordinated community response and enhance victim safety by focusing on collaboration and information-sharing among service providers.
The Blueprint for Safety, grounded in the experiences of victims of violence, will support agencies’ ability to intercede in new acts of violence, intimidation or coercion, and place added accountability on domestic violence offenders, officials said in a news release announcing the program.
Based on 30 years of work and research, officials said they anticipate the program will also reduce domestic abuse-related homicides.
“The Blueprint for Safety framework has an incredible track record of reducing deaths, holding perpetrators accountable and changing societal attitudes toward domestic violence in communities where it has been implemented,” said Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. “Our team looks forward to fully embracing this comprehensive interagency approach to break the cycle of domestic abuse in our community.”
Among the other agencies involved in the program: the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and Witness Assistance Unit; Columbus Division of Police, Patrol and Domestic Violence Investigation Unit; Franklin County Common Pleas Court, Domestic Relations Division; Franklin County Municipal Court, Pretrial and Probation Services; CHOICES for Domestic Violence; and the Center for Family Safety and Healing.
The grant comes just weeks after reports that the state has reduced staff and services as programs face deep cuts to a primary funding source.
Programs and shelters learned late September that the state’s share of federal Victims of Crime Act money for the new fiscal year is down by more than $20 million, sharply reducing the grants that flow to dozens of organizations that help families affected by domestic violence.
The decline means about $7.7 million less for more than 50 programs. For many, that reflects cuts of nearly 40% to what amounts to their biggest revenue source.
Despite resource cuts, county Commissioner Marilyn Brown said there’s been an added investment among local and state agencies. She said this county collaboration will make it easier for residents to get the help they need.
“It’s so important for our families that are experiencing domestic violence to know that however they get to somebody that it’s going to be the same approach, whether it’s through the city, the county or any number of partners that we’re working with,” Brown said.
Bridget DeCrane, the city’s director of special projects & grants, said while a functional process was already in place, without a connective policy for data and information sharing there are risks linked to victim protection.
“We felt is was a great opportunity to apply for this grant to really bring in some resources to kind of take what’s good practice right now and put it in to policy that’s standardized, so we can make sure across time these responses and collection of data and sharing information is done even when people move out of their positions,” she said.
The model provides a standard process for how domestic violence cases are handled going forward, creating a more fluid criminal justice system among local departments.
For the first phase of the model, the City Attorney’s Office will do a systemwide safety audit to review the flow of data and information. Once the audit is finished, the results will produce a guideline for how agencies draft policies and practices in response to new cases.