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Pennsylvania's domestic violence screening tool expands

A program put in place to identify individuals at risk of domestic violence -- and stop a situation from escalating -- has now been expanded into 45 counties in Pennsylvania.

The plan, known as the Lethality Assessment Program, was initiated five years ago in just 18 counties. It is eventually intended to expand to all 67 counties in the state.

Modeled after a plan first used in Maryland, Pennsylvania's the plan trains police responding to calls where domestic violence might be an issue to ask 11 questions. The answers are used to designate individuals who are at a higher risk of dying due to a partner's uncontrolled rage. When someone is identified as being at risk, they're immediately put in touch with a domestic-abuse counseling service or hotline and a plan is put into place to secure that individual's ongoing safety for 24 hours.

The 24-hour period helps serve as a "cooling off" period that allows the suspected abuser to get a grip on his or her emotions and calm down. It also helps temporarily remove the potential victim from the situation so that he or she can decide what to do next. The potential victim is strongly encouraged to make use of the ongoing services the various counties offer to get out of abusive situations.

The need for a plan like this was identified after researchers determined that only about 4 percent of those people who are eventually killed as a result of domestic violence actually seek help prior to their deaths.

Once a similar plan was put in place in Maryland, the state experienced a 32 percent reduction in the rate of homicides attributed to domestic violence. Since the program began in Pennsylvania, over 16,000 potential victims have been screened and 69 percent ended up being classified as high risk. Of those individuals, 63 percent eventually used the services made available to them to improve their situation.

Programs like these are wonderful tools for everyone involved in domestic violence situations. They prevent some people from ending up the victims of fatal acts of violence and others from ruining their own lives in a single impulsive act of aggression.

Source: YorkDispatch, "Domestic violence screening expands rapidly through Pa.," Maria Yohn, April 25, 2018

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