Upper Arlington program adds services for domestic-violence victims
Upper Arlington officials have launched a new program aimed at providing additional services to victims of domestic violence.
Beginning June 20, the city launched the Contact an Advocate program through the Upper Arlington City Attorney's Office.
The program is billed as an additional resource for individuals who might need contact with an advocate for concerns about domestic violence or similar crimes. It allows victims to communicate with an advocate by texting 614-398-1540 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Within 48 hours, those who reach out will be contacted by Joe Roush, the city's victim advocate and criminal-justice program administrator.
Roush said the program was established because during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, some domestic-violence victims were experiencing difficulties contacting the Franklin County Municipal Court's witness-assistance program to get information about their pending court cases.
"We have the ability to receive texts, as well as emails," Roush said. "It's basically an information-referral service so that if somebody has a question -- whether it's domestic violence or a crime of violence, in general -- they can contact us.
"We assist them with their questions (and) concerns and try to get them the proper referral if they're looking for services."
Roush and outgoing city attorney Jeanine Hummer, who retired Aug. 31, said the system shouldn't be used as an alternative to 911 in emergency situations. Anyone in need of emergency assistance still should call 911.
"The program, Contact an Advocate, is to allow people who are involved, or potentially involved, in a crime of violence the ability to reach out to an advocate," Hummer said.
The program will be aided by the Upper Arlington Community Foundation, which through its Good Neighbor Fund will provide financial assistance for everything from emergency shelter or changing door locks to temporarily boarding pets.
Roush said upon speaking with those who reach out through the program, he could determine if a domestic-violence case should be referred to the county prosecutor.
"We'd be able to make arrangements like that to assist them in their situation," he said. "It's basically an additional tool in our victims-advocate toolbox to further assist the citizens of Upper Arlington."
The program was established after a proposal by Upper Arlington City Council member Michaela Burriss, who learned similar services were offered by the city of Columbus.
"I, as a resident, although passionate about the issue of domestic violence and its impact on residents, was also somewhat unfamiliar with all the incredible resources that existed prior to the pandemic that were available through our city attorney's office for folks that need help," Burriss said. "If you are a victim of domestic violence ... I hope you know I have full faith and confidence that if you contact our city attorney's office, they will help provide you with the best resources possible -- whether it be legal or otherwise.
"The ultimate goal is for you to be able to find safety and to be safe and to know that our city is committed to assisting victims in that way."
The Contact an Advocate program has been added without additional costs to Upper Arlington because it will be run with city attorney's office resources and personnel, according to the city.