Debra Faircloth

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Baton Rouge Budget Cuts Threaten Louisiana Families

by Debra Faircloth

Recently, our state cut funds to domestic violence programs by almost a million dollars, $998,000 and change.  The explanation for the cuts in a state that consistently ranks in the top 5 most lethal states for women is that our state is moving from a shelter model to a far less costly one, a model using "brief motel stays" or visits with friends and family.  Not only were those of us who work in domestic violence shocked and surprised by the announcement of the cuts; we were equally surprised by the rationale.  I've studied domestic violence in all its aspects under the tutelage of nationally ranked experts for years and that's the first I've heard of such a model.  My colleagues across the state in domestic violence have had the same response, and we're looking not only for evidence of the model but for its efficacy.  If there is such a model, there is likely one and only one and it's in Ohio.  I don't know much about Ohio except this:  unlike Louisiana, Ohio doesn't consistently rank in the top 5 most lethal states.  Our state's LCADV (Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence) director is from Ohio, and her consistent reaction upon coming to Louisiana was where is the outrage to our state's epidemic level of family violence?

While there's little if any evidence that this proposed model works, or even that this model exists, these facts are undisputed:

But perhaps most important, Louisiana is always, always in the top 5 most lethal states for women.  Currently we rank 4th, but we usually are 2nd and 3rd and we've been 1st too often.

DART (Domestic Abuse Resistance Team), the family violence program I work for, operates on a shoestring.  With the exception of Lincoln Parish, the site of our home office and shelter, our other 6 offices are run by solo individuals, the majority of whom are part time.  As for that proposed model using hotel stays and visits with friends and family, it may cost the state less money, but Louisiana will pay in other ways.  We'll pay in deaths if not in dollars, and we'll probably take 1st place in national fatality rankings and keep it.

As always, if someone you love is afraid to go home, call me at 899-5296.