Group seeks to combine services to stem violence

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Police and social service agencies in Cape Girardeau plan to combine their efforts in a new program designed to improve the response to victims of domestic violence.

The Safe House for Women Inc. sponsored a workshop Tuesday and Wednesday to provide information about the nationally recognized Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team program and to determine how it would function in Cape Girardeau County, said Safe House executive director Linda Garner.

The guest speaker Tuesday was Sgt. Cari Graves of the Colorado Springs (Colo.) Police Department, who serves as program director for the Colorado Springs DVERT program.

Cape Girardeau's DVERT group will begin with Cape Gir-ardeau police officers and sheriff's deputies, Jackson police officers, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Safe House members and a representative from the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division, Garner said.

Combining the agencies will provide victims with more immediate access to shelter, legal assistance and medical and psychological support at a time they need it most, Garner said.

She told attendees at Wednesday's workshop that reports of domestic violence to police in Cape Girardeau have increased steadily over the past few years, according to numbers released by the Missouri Uniform Crime Reporting System.

The Safe House received more than $7,000 in grant money from the Missouri Foundation for Health to be used for education and training to help get services to victims. Part of the money was used to bring Graves to Cape Girardeau this week to discuss the benefits of the program and ways to make it work. Six members of the newly formed DVERT will travel to Colorado Springs in June to receive training there, Garner said.

The Colorado Springs DVERT has been in existence for 10 years and is considered a leader in the program, Garner said.

"We wanted to learn from them what has worked and hasn't worked," Garner said.

New DVERT members will meet next month to begin forming a strategy for how to combine services, she said.

carel@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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