In an effort to provide better services to victims of domestic violence in the area, Prince George’s Hospital Center has launched the “Maryland Domestic Violence Health Care Screening and Response Initiative.”

The initiative was announced by Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, whose own family was victimized by the scourge of domestic violence when his cousin, Cathy Brown, was killed by her abuser in 2008.

“By establishing this new domestic violence program in Prince George’s County, we will be able to better recognize and care for victims of domestic violence, prevent further incidences, and send a message to our neighbors that violence and abuse against women and children will not be tolerated and will not go unnoticed in Maryland,” Brown said in a statement.

This is the fifth hospital-based domestic violence initiative statewide. The hospital already offers a full range of services including crisis counseling, forensic examinations and law enforcement support, free of charge to victims of sexual assaults. Now the hospital will be able to offer similar support, free of charge, to victims of domestic violence.

“The Domestic Violence Program is an extension of our Sexual Assault Center at Prince George’s Hospital Center. By combining these services, this will allow us to have more resources to provide an added measure of safety and protection to the individuals of domestic violence in the community we serve,” said Ken Glover, president and CEO of Dimensions Healthcare System, the company which operates the hospital. “We want to make sure access to the program is easy as possible for someone in an abusive situation to get the support and help they need.”

It’s more evidence that the county and state are making domestic violence a priority.

The county has expanded its Project Safe Sunday program to partner with religious groups to address the issue and two of its brand new elected officials, state’s attorney-elect Angela Alsobrooks and sheriff-elect Melvin C. High, made domestic violence priorities in their campaigns.

The state has also been proactive in the effort. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Family Violence Council release a report earlier this year on the impact that domestic violence screening programs can have on victims and the costs on care. The report concluded that the state needs to expand its efforts in state hospitals.

With 53 people dying as a direct result of domestic violence in Maryland last year and 40 percent of domestic violence victims not reporting it, the opportunity to expand treatment and prevention options appealed greatly to the governor.

“Together, thanks to the dedication and collaboration of our victim advocates, health care providers, and local and state leaders, we now have greater resources to support and care for our neighbors who are victims of domestic violence,” said O’Malley in a statement. “Protecting the public’s safety is among our most solemn obligations as public servants, and we will continue to build upon our programs and strengthen our partnerships to achieve our goal of reducing violent crimes committed against women and children by 25 percent by 2012.”

The first year of the program, funding will total $125,000-$80,000 will be state funds and $45,000 will come from private companies and nonprofits.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO