Counselors to become part of new domestic violence policy

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Pretty soon when officers are called to a scene, they may be responding with a counselor and a deputy trained in handling those situations (KTRK)

Antrece Baggett teaches American history to her students at Houston Community College. Yet, it's her own personal history of growing up in a domestic violence home that has shaped her the most.

"My parents did not know, but as a child, I was fearful for my life and the lives of my brothers," said Baggett. "So I called the police on many occasions. I begged them to come, but they said they couldn't unless someone was injured."

Baggett grew up in the 1970s, and the police rarely came for those domestic violence calls. That's why she is thrilled that the Harris County Sheriff's Department is teaming up with the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council to form specialized domestic violence response team. The development of such a program got approval by the Harris County Commissioners Court Tuesday. Both agencies will now begin the process of forming two teams to get the program started.

"We will pair a clinical technician along with a specially trained deputy so we can provide victim services for victims, while also handling law enforcement operations," said Ryan Sullivan of the sheriff's department.

Sullivan says the domestic violence program will be modeled after the current program that sends special teams to mental health calls. There are now 12 mental health such teams, and the program is generally regarded as very successful.

The sheriff's department gets around 16,000 domestic violence related calls a year. Many are often repeat calls. If even a little of that number is reduced, the program would go a long way.

"What we hope this will happen is that it will prevent recidivism, future violence, and help the future prosecution of the case," said Amy Smith of the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.

For Baggett, who now speaks to others about this daunting issue, a domestic violence response team is something she wished would have answered her calls, so many years ago.

"To help the victims and the children also," she says.
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