Becky Campbell – Johnson City Press – A developing nonprofit agency with a mission to provide services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault is getting closer to a reality after a funding source was approved by the Washington County Commission last month, and it won’t cost non-criminal taxpayers a dime.

“We had the opportunity to speak to the Washington County Commission to discuss implementing the fee,” and a resolution was approved, Heather Brack, director of the Family Justice Center, said. The center will allow a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to work together, under one roof, to provide coordinated services to victims of family violence, Brack said.

The teams include police officers, prosecutors, civil legal service providers and community-based advocates. Victims can to talk to an advocate, plan for their safety, interview with a police officer, meet with a prosecutor, receive medical assistance, receive shelter information and get transportation assistance, all in one location.

Beginning next year, a new $45 fee will be added to court costs on all cases in Washington County except traffic and Class A misdemeanors, which are the least serious crimes in Tennessee statutes, and most of the money will go to fund the Family Justice Center. The center will receive $42 of the money while the Washington County clerk’s office will get $3 to cover administrative costs associated with collecting and distributing the money.

The target opening date for the center is July 1.

For now, Brack’s office is at Memorial Park Community Center, but by July 1 the FJC will have it’s own location where services will be offered, she said.

In 2013, there were 1,082 victims of domestic violence in crimes reported to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson City Police Department and Jonesborough Public Safety Department. At the time the grant was awarded, Tennessee ranked 50th of 50 states in which violence is the cause all deaths, and of that number, 51 percent were related to domestic violence.

“The FJC will serve victims of domestic violence and sexual assautl and their families,” Brack said. “We’ll have domestic violence and sexual assault advocates, counseling services, civil legal support as well a criminal court advocacy, and the DA’s  office will have representation.”

Putting all the services in one location is a good way to make sure victims and their families don’t fall through the cracks and that they get the services they need to get through their situation, she said.

Brack said she is confident the court fee will be part of the sustaining source of funding, based on other counties that have a similar fee.

“Sullivan County has  this  fee in their system, and they have a very good return on their collection rate,” Brack said. “In 2014 they had about a $40,000 collection rate.” Money from the fee in Sullivan County helps fund the Children’s Advocacy Center.

Initial funding for the Family Justice Center was established through a $240,000 Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs grant obtained by the Johnson City Police Department. It provides for a three-year plan to develop the program, coordinate services and get things up and running.

Brack said she is excited about the opportunity to provide such needed services to the community.

To view original article, click here: New Center to Offer Services to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault Victims