Partnership is Latest in CT to Employ Nationally-Recognized Pilot Program

United Services, Inc. and the Coventry Police Department are collaborating in a new effort, the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), to provide immediate safety and support services to victims at the scene of a domestic violence incident.

Through the LAP, Coventry Police officers will be trained in nationally recognized risk assessment strategies to assess the victim’s risk for serious injury or death.  Should the circumstances meet high-risk criteria, officers will then have the ability to immediately link the victim to United Services’ domestic violence advocates for vital support and safety information.  United Services is an award-winning, private non-profit provider of mental and behavioral health services and runs northeastern Connecticut’s only Domestic Violence Program and shelters.

The partnership is a result of a larger collaboration between the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) and the Connecticut Police Officers Standards and Training Council (POSTC).  Connecticut is one of only ten states in the nation selected to participate in the Program, which was first piloted with much success in Maryland in 2005.

CCADV began piloting the program in Connecticut in September, 2012 and formally adopted it in March, 2013.  There are now fifteen towns and cities in Connecticut using the program. The Town of Coventry is the first community serviced by United Services Inc. to begin the Lethality Assessment screening program.

Chief Mark Palmer of the Coventry Police Department noted that in addition to enforcing the family violence laws,

“it is crucial for a police officer on the scene of a domestic violence incident to be able to provide immediate protective services to a victim who is in high risk of being re-victimized. Collaborating with United Services will provide officers that tool.”

Sergeant Michal McDonagh of the Coventry Police Department and Julie Hoagland of United Services attended a Lethality Assessment Program training on September 26th and will team up to provide the training to members of the Coventry Police Department and United Services in order to begin the program.

“We’re very excited to begin the program,” said Hoagland.  “This partnership will allow our domestic violence advocates to make contact with victims just when they need our services most and could mean the difference between further, potentially fatal, violence and a victim finding the tools and the means to escape an abusive relationship.”

The LAP employs a two-pronged intervention process to better serve domestic violence victims who are in the greatest danger.  The process begins once an officer at the scene of a domestic violence incident conducts an assessment of the situation and, if factors that indicate danger exists, asks the victim a series of eleven questions that comprise the “Lethality Screen for First Responders.

If a victim’s responses to the questions reveal a high potential for violence, the officer follows a referral protocol by informing the victim that people in similar situations have been the victim of escalating violence. To help the victim address immediate safety needs, the officer calls the local domestic violence advocate and encourages the victim to speak directly with the advocate. After the victim speaks with the advocate, the officer reviews and supports the outcome of the telephone conversation between the victim and advocate. The officer may assist in the implementation of a safety plan developed by the victim and advocate.