From: Aaron Abrams, Community Relations Specialist, Clackamas County, Department of Health, Housing, and Human Services, 503-655-8752 11-1-12

Clackamas County

Media and Interested Parties

Clackamas County to open new Family Justice Center to help families escape domestic violence

Clackamas County Board of Commissioners has agreed to partner with law enforcement and local service providers to open an important new facility in the county. A new Family Justice Center of Clackamas will open in 2013 on the County Campus at Red Soils in Oregon City. The Center will offer a safe location where law enforcement officials, legal service providers, victim advocates and community providers can work together to help families escape and recover from domestic violence.

The Center will be a place where victims can report a crime, plan for their safety, get counseling, obtain help with a restraining order, and get information on shelter, medical help, and transportation.

Family Justice Centers have opened across the country, and are recognized as important for domestic violence prevention and intervention. Family Justice Centers have helped communities reduce homicides; increase victim safety; empower victims; reduce fear and anxiety for victims and their children; and reduce incidents where victims are intimidated.

"A work group, including commissioners and county staff, went to visit the Nampa County, Idaho center and also Multnomah County's Gateway Center to see firsthand how Family Justice Centers can work to assist victims of domestic violence," said Charlotte Lehan, Chair of the Board of County Commissioners. "We are excited to create something that is based on a successful model, but that can also be uniquely Clackamas, and will work for us."

Domestic Violence affects people throughout Clackamas County. In 2010 1,902 requests for shelter were made to Clackamas Women's Services (CWS) from people trying to escape domestic violence, yet only 148 were able to be served. In the past two years, at least 112 Oregon victims were killed as a result of domestic violence. Many of them were children. Children witness 33% of intimate partner physical assaults and 20% of intimate partner sexual assaults. Almost one-third of child welfare cases involve domestic violence.

"I look back at where we started in our discussion about how we can assist people who are escaping domestic violence, and where we are now," said Commissioner Jamie Damon. "Creating the Family Justice Center is absolutely the right path to take. It is sustainable for the long term, not just filling gaps.

The Board of County Commissioners has agreed to provide up to $100,000 to fund operations and staffing for an initial start up period of six months (Jan-June 2013). During this time, the Clackamas County Health, Housing, and Human Services (H3S) Department will convene a work group composed of partners and stakeholders to continue discussions in a variety of issues including structure, operations, shared services, functions, outreach, and other areas related to running the Center.

The Center will house personnel from numerous organizations including the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office (CCSO), victim advocates, social service providers, and legal service providers. By working together in a centralized location, these professionals will be able to more effectively and efficiently serve families.

"We are excited that the Board of County Commissioners has decided to move forward with the creation of a Family Justice Center here in Clackamas County, to consolidate services that will benefit victims of domestic violence," said Sheriff Craig Roberts. "The fight against domestic violence has always been a top priority of the Sheriff's Office, and in our experience, working through partnerships is always the most effective approach."

An existing County facility has been identified as a suitable location for the Center. The building, located on Warner Milne road, is already equipped with meeting rooms and office space, and is wired for video conferencing. The needed tenant improvements would come from an existing allocation of Federal funds, and staff salaries would be borne by the organizations that currently support those staff.

"We have to prioritize where our limited resources go. The Family Justice Center is a great example of how we can focus limited resources for maximum effect," said Commissioner Paul Savas.

A large number of organizations have expressed support for the Center, as well as interest in participating in programs, either on a full-time or part-time basis. Some of these organizations and agencies include:

  • Clackamas County Sheriff's Office
  • Clackamas Women's Services
  • Culturally-specific domestic violence service groups
  • Legal Aid Services of Oregon and other legal service providers
  • CASA of Oregon
  • County Resolution Services
  • Northwest Housing Alternatives
  • Police chiefs of Gladstone, West Linn, Sandy, Oregon City, Lake Oswego and Molalla

"The residents and leaders of Clackamas County agree on the importance of protecting our vulnerable residents from family violence. This is an important, positive step that we can take together," said Commissioner Jim Bernard.

Public focus on domestic violence became even more acute in early 2009/2010 due to domestic violence related homicides which occurred in the County. In March, 2010, the Commissioners convened a meeting of community stakeholders to focus on the problem and potential solutions. After several meetings, staff prepared an action plan which was presented to – and approved by - the BCC over the summer. The plan included hiring a DV Coordinator, establishing a DV Leadership group, conducting a public awareness campaign, and funding a few community based efforts aimed at preventing and supporting DV interventions.

In August 2011, the BCC passed a resolution recognizing that the abuse of children and women in our community is a dire problem and invested $500,000 for emergency shelter, crisis counseling, medical assessments, and other assistance. The commissioners also directed staff to study the magnitude of unmet need for services with the idea of potentially placing a measure on the ballot to fund more of these crucial services.

In December, 2011, the H3S Department presented findings to the board of county commissioners that identified a significant unmet need. This was confirmed again in a August, 2012 community survey in which two-thirds of respondents supported the concept of a a Family Justice Center.

The 2012-13 budget included an additional $500,000 to focus on housing and support services for victims of domestic violence and child abuse. This investment was accompanied by 100 Section 8 Vouchers valued at approximately $800,000 for use by families escaping violence.

It is important to note that the Sheriff's Office and Clackamas Women's Services have long been interested in creating a collaborative approach to domestic violence. In the summer of 2012, County Commissioners actively joined the discussions and interest in the Family Justice Center model was heightened.

"Domestic violence is a serious issue in our county," said Commissioner Ann Lininger. "I am really proud of how we have all worked to create a place that will help people most in need escape from the cycle of violence, and rebuild their lives."

For more information about the Family Justice Center, please contact Tim Heider, Clackamas County Public Affairs Manager at (503) 742-5911, at theider@clackamas.us

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