Sara Ritchey and Billi Lacombe – The Town Talk – Thursday was a big day for the women of Louisiana, one with profound significance for our history and potential for our future. On Thursday, the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence announced the results of its annual study of domestic violence homicide in the state. A historic development has emerged — in nearly 20 years of tracking incidents of lethal violence, the Coalition has found that Northeast Louisiana is now showing a “significant and longstanding” reduction in domestic violence homicides. Their figures demonstrate the staggering impact that family justice centers can make in reducing death rates for women in abusive relationships.

Since the establishment of the Family Justice Center of Ouachita Parish in 2005, domestic and dating violence reports have fallen by 47.6 percent. More recently, the parish has increased its coordinated community response, using special prosecutors and an accelerated docket for domestic violence cases, and eliminating pre-set bonds for domestic violence offenders.

As a result, over the last four years, domestic violence homicides in the region have dropped by 70 percent. That’s an astounding rate, especially considering that the statewide rate of domestic violence homicide is currently 1.99 per 100,000. This figure means that, at .63 per 100,000, Northeast Louisiana is now registering at a 60 percent lower rate than the rest of the state.

This dramatic change in domestic violence deaths points to the efficacy of the family justice center model of coordinated community response to domestic violence. This legislative season, Louisiana adopted criteria for the establishment of additional family justice centers throughout the state, which provide services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, cyberbullying, and human trafficking.

Family justice centers co-locate in a single building a multi-disciplinary team of professionals — including police officers, prosecutors, civil legal service providers, mental and physical health providers, and community-based advocates — to provide coordinated services to survivors of these crimes.

The center offers a single place for survivors to speak to advocates, develop a safety plan, interview with an officer, receive medical assistance, and secure housing. This collaborative effort improves communication between agencies, enables information and resource sharing, and bridges gaps in services. And as the data released Thursday show, it also saves lives.

In early 2016, Louisiana will launch two new family justice centers, in Alexandria and Lafayette, both administered by the staff of Faith House of Acadiana.

With the results shown by the data released on Thursday, no region in our state — which ranks fourth in the nation for the number of domestic violence homicides — should be without a family justice center of its own.

To view original article click here: Your Mail 11-3: Family Justice Centers