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Panel recommends consolidation of state's domestic violence efforts

 

The Associated Press

 

JACKSON -- A task force is recommending a consolidation of the efforts of multiple agencies to combat domestic violence. 

 

The proposal came Thursday from the Domestic Violence Task Force. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that the proposal has the backing of Gov. Phil Bryant. 

 

Bryant said federal and state grants could be sent to the new agency. He says it would help the victims, make it easier for law enforcement and even reduce costs in the long run. 

 

Currently grants go to the departments of health, mental health and public safety. 

 

It will be up to the Legislature to decide whether to create another agency to manage the funds and develop standards for entities that provide services to domestic violence victims. The task force recommended it be called the Commission Against Interpersonal Violence. 

 

"We believe this reorganizational step will result in better accountability and improvement of services for victims," said Sandy Middleton, chairwoman of the task force and executive director of the nonprofit Center for Violence Prevention. 

 

"By broadening the term to interpersonal violence, the Task Force includes the crimes of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, trafficking, child sexual abuse and related crimes," Middleton said. 

 

The task force report cited what it said are inefficiencies in the current system by pointing out that the Department of Health cannot account for grants totaling $591,519 it received in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 from the Victims of Domestic Violence Fund. 

 

Mike Lucious, deputy state health officer and chief administrative officer for the Department of Health, said the funds are still in the state treasury because a change in law is needed for his agency to have the authority to spend them. 

 

The funds are derived from fees, such as on marriage licenses and bonds for people charged with domestic violence and are supposed to go to domestic violence shelters across the state. State law caps how much the Department of Health can provide to the shelters, and the revenue generated is more than that amount.

 

 

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