Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

Morris County will create a new Family Justice Center at the county government complex in Morristown that will serve as a one-stop facility for essential services for victims of domestic violence, it was announced at the Morris County Freeholder’s meeting.

The Freeholders, at their session last week, unanimously approved an agreement with the Jersey Battered Women’s Service (JBWS) to provide space, at no cost, for the new center, to be housed in the Morris County Administration and Records Building on Court Street, across from the Morris County Courthouse. The lease agreement starts on Nov. 15 and runs through Oct. 31, 2020.

 Morris County would become the second county in the state, joining Essex County, to set up a Family Justice Center.

 “This will make it easier for people who have been victims of crimes to get the counseling, services and information they require in one convenient location in Morris County,’’ said Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo. “It gives me a tremendous sense of pride to think of how many Morris County families will be helped by this necessary service. The Family Justice Center will stand as a beacon of hope for the victims of domestic violence for years to come.” 

The concept of a Family Justice Center is a joint effort of the JBWS and the Domestic Violence Working Group of Morris County, which is a coalition of the courts, prosecutor’s office, sheriff’s office, local police, social service agencies, and nonprofit groups.

The new center will offer increased safety for domestic violence victims and improve coordination of services they require, said JBWS Executive Director Patricia Sly. Allocation of space in the county government complex by the freeholders will make it easier for JBWS to obtain grants needed to operate the center, and allow them to use valuable funds for programs rather than allocating funds to rent or lease space.

“This will bring everything together under one roof,’’ said Sly. “If you or your family have a problem with a domestic violence issue, there will be an easily accessible place in Morris County, for the first time, where you can come for all of the help you need, right in one place.’’

There are some 2,500 domestic violence offenses recorded in Morris County annually, with only about 25 percent of incidents reported, Sly and Marcy McMann, chairwoman of the Morris County Domestic Violence Working Group, told the freeholders. They said the new center could encourage domestic crime victims to come forward and seek needed help before situations spiral out of control, leading to more serious assaults and even homicides 

“It will give us the ability to get people started with needed support services –whether legal or medical or law enforcement or children’s services – when they really need it,’’ said Sly. “It can really be daunting to clients to try to find their way through the bureaucracy. We hope to make it easier for them and get them they help they need as quickly as possible.

“We are only capturing a portion of the domestic violence cases that occur in Morris County,’’ said McMann, who is a Morristown-based attorney. “The Family Justice Center will allow us to serve this group of people more effectively and efficiently. But more importantly, it may help us bring in some of the people who are violence victims but have been reluctant to seek help.’’

The Jersey Battered Women’s Service is a domestic violence and domestic abuse prevention agency. Services include a 24-hour hotline; counseling; safe house; transitional living; children’s services; life skills education; vocational counseling; batterers’ intervention; legal assistance; teen dating violence services; and professional training, education and youth prevention programs.

For more information on JBWS, please visit: http://www.jbws.org/index.html or for help call (973) 267-4763

To find key facts on domestic violence offered by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, please visit: http://www.morrisprosecutor.org/crimeprevention/crime_domestic.asp