Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lethality Assessment Program - Joint Press Release MSMH & SMCSO

Leonardtown, Maryland - On April 24, 2015, educators, from the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence in collaboration with MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital (MSMH) and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, presented Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) training. The LAP is a multi-pronged intervention that consists of a standardized, evidence-based lethality assessment questionnaire and accompanying referral protocol used to help first responders make a differential response - tailored to the unique circumstances of high-danger victims. Hospital professionals, Sheriff’s Office detectives, and Walden Behavioral Health staff, all members of the St. Mary’s County Family Violence Coordinating Council (SMCFVCC), learned to identify victims of domestic violence, especially those who are at the highest risk of being seriously injured or killed, and provide them with immediate domestic violence support services. Members also learned how to accurately assess and document physical injury as a result of a domestic violence incident for potential use as evidence. 

The need for additional trained staff is clear. Between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014,  95 victims of domestic violence were brought to MSMH by the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office compared to 35 in fiscal year 2012. Since Yvonne Dawkins, RN, FNE-A, (hospital based domestic violence program coordinator), began in July 2014, 240 patients have been identified, throughout all departments of the hospital, as victims of domestic violence. After completing their training, several additional MSMH staff members will be able to document injuries and connect patients experiencing domestic violence to the appropriate services in accordance with the SMCFVCC continuum of care. Important improvements have also been made to the hospital's electronic medical record, which assists RN Dawkins in following up with patients in a timely manner in order to guide them through the support system network.

For many years, St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office deputies have been completing a domestic violence lethality screen with victims in cases where domestic abuse or assault is suspected and immediately connecting them with support services provided by SMCFVCC. A lethality screen consists of a set of questions used in the field to assess a victim's risk of homicide or severe re-assault. Without question, the domestic violence lethality screen has proven to be an effective method for police to evaluate a victim's level of risk. The law enforcement community recognizes not all victims wish to talk to, let alone report, such crimes to police. However, that same victim may be inclined to disclose domestic abuse to clinical staff during a visit to the hospital. This layer of well trained hospital personnel is a welcomed addition in the fight against domestic violence. The creation of the LAP has further served to improve the partnership between law enforcement officers, hospital staff, and community service providers and advocates. "The LAP is designed to provide a timely response and support for victims facing potential life threatening situations. It's all about breaking the cycle of abuse. The caring and professional staff at MSMH is doing a tremendous job in helping to do just that. " - Corporal Doug Harris, Domestic Violence Coordinator, St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office 

The St. Mary's County Sheriff’s Office and MedStar St. Mary's Hospital along with Walden Behavioral staff are proud to be working together to strengthen our response to domestic violence in St. Mary’s County. 

Point of Contact MSMH:
Holly Meyer, Director of Marketing, Public Relations and Philanthropy

Point of Contact SMCSO:
Corporal Doug Harris, Domestic Violence Coordinator
301.475.4200 X 9015

Sergeant Cara Grumbles, Public Information Officer
301.475.4200 X 1997

For more information visit: 

Walden Sierra Domestic Violence 24 hour HOTLINE 301.863.6661