Grant to aid Safe Passage, DA’s office to combat domestic violence

@ecutts_HG
Published: 12/22/2017 11:08:01 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Two area agencies have received funds to continue work to prosecute violent crimes against women and help those affected.

Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett announced Thursday that Safe Passage and the Northwestern district attorney’s office are two of the 37 agencies across the state that received a total of $2.7 million through the Violence Against Women Act Services, Training, Officers Prosecutors grant program.

“This funding is critical in strengthening the essential role that law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim services professionals play in cases of violent crimes against women and in making Massachusetts a safer state for all,” Baker said in a statement.

Northampton-based Safe Passage — a decades-old nonprofit that runs domestic violence shelter space as well as children’s program, counselor advocates and a legal program — received a $130,000 grant from the state.

The organization’s executive director, Marianne Winters, said Thursday the group was thrilled by the news.

“This funding covers a lot of the work that we do with Latino communities and immigrant communities,” she said. “It funds two staff people and also funds a portion of a collaboration we do with the Hilltown Community Health Center for rural-based domestic violence work.”

Winters said it has only been within the past three years the nonprofit has been able to expand in rural communities to provide both legal and advocacy services as well as increase the work done within the Latino community.

“Whenever we have focused funding that helps us reach a community that is marginalized, it becomes a lifeline for that community,” she said. “It becomes a connection that would otherwise not exist.”

The work that the organization does in that area brings a focus into focus the interconnection of domestic violence and marginalized communities, Winters said. The program also allows advocates and Safe Passage employees to bring people into a wider range of services and support.

“It opens up a great deal of resources,” Winters said. “It brings the full force of the whole organization to clients who are marginalized who we would not be able to reach in other ways.”

At the Northwestern district attorney’s office, a $121,000 grant will fund a group of advocates who are on call on evenings and weekends to respond when needed to domestic violence calls.

“It’s based on the idea that if you have advocates and police working together to bring an immediate response to somebody that they may be more likely to accept the service,” said Mary Kociela, director of the Northwestern district attorney’s office domestic violence projects. “It’s one thing to have someone say ‘oh, call this number,’ but when someone actually contacts you, it is more of a proactive response.”

Around 10 people work as advocates in this role and are supervised by the district attorney’s office. Throughout the year, they help between 200 to 300 victims, although they respond to even more calls than that, Kociela said.

“We’re hoping that gives that person a little extra support and safety when they most need it,” Kociela said.

The grant money will also be used to update charging booklets given out to police and provide regional training on changes to domestic violence laws.

In addition to announcing the grants, the administration and the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Council and the administration today announced the 2018 Action Plan for working groups on the council addressing five areas: response and assessment, housing stability and self sufficiency, human trafficking of children, prevention and education, and veteran or military families.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.
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