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Domestic violence services need expansion, funding, advocates say

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Posted at 5:41 PM, Aug 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-18 19:41:27-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- According to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, there were 13 domestic violence related deaths in Utah within the first six months of this year.

On Monday, police in West Valley City said another was added to the list when a husband killed his wife and then himself.

“It’s happening far too frequently,” said Jenn Oxborrow, executive director of the coalition.

When examining a 10-year trend, nearly half of the state’s homicides are related to domestic violence. Part of the problem, according to Oxborrow, is that there is simply not enough funding to meet the needs of victims.

“Our state money for domestic violence services and sexual assault services is very, very slim,” she said. “Compared to other states, we are on the bottom of the ranking.”

But nonprofit groups around the state are now hoping that will change.

Tuesday, many of those groups met in Salt Lake City to discuss a new system they will begin implementing in certain areas on Sept. 1.

“It’s a proactive approach,” said Cindy Baldwin, executive director of the Canyon Creek Women’s Crisis Center in Cedar City.

It’s called the Lethality Assessment Protocol.

Developed in Maryland, it’s a system that will essentially get crisis centers and police departments on the same page. Using an 11-question screening process, officers can determine the severity of a domestic incident.

If the victim’s answers indicate a high risk for homicide, the officer can take steps to bring them to safety, such as get them to an emergency shelter.

“It’s this great tool,” Baldwin said. “We are confident that it works because it’s working in 33 other states.”

Utah’s legislature allocated $700,000 in one-time funding for the program. However, it is only enough to get the program started. They will need to request for more if they want to bring it to full scale in the state.

“There is a solution to drive down rates of domestic violence homicide, suicide in Utah, but we need some ongoing support,” Oxborrow said.