A year ago, the Spokane County Domestic Violence Consortium was a volunteer army with only one paid employee and a picayune annual budget of $35,000.
Now, nine people work full-time jobs. And the consortium is running on a three-year, $2.5-million grant - one of three national sites selected for the money by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’ve been busy,” said Jennifer Pearson Stapleton, the consortium executive director, explaining why the group waited a year before announcing the money.
About 45 groups nationwide applied for the grants. Only three - organizations in Spokane, Boston and Eugene, Ore. - received grant money. The money is to help expand and enhance a community’s coordinated response to “intimate-partner violence,” a more specific term than “domestic violence.”
A study released last week by the Justice Department said that partner violence is grossly under-reported.
Stapleton calls intimate-partner violence an epidemic in Spokane County, with more than 6,400 cases reported last year, a big increase over years past. Almost four in 10 county murders are related to intimate-partner violence.
The Spokane consortium is not an advocacy or a treatment organization. Formed by volunteers in 1992, it has 135 members - from public defenders to church leaders - and tries to coordinate the battle against domestic violence.
The CDC hopes to determine the effectiveness of community programs by using polls - one just finished, and another follow-up survey in two years.
The consortium just finished a random survey of 400 homes in Spokane County and another survey in Snohomish County. The 62-question survey asked people questions such as whether they consider slapping a partner or calling a partner names to be intimate-partner violence.
Spokane results will be compared with Snohomish County results, now and in two years. The same surveys will be done in Boston, Eugene and two other comparison communities.
The CDC will analyze the results, to determine the effectiveness of programs such as the Spokane consortium.
The Spokane group has been busy with other efforts. In June, it opened a child-care center at the Spokane County Courthouse, to watch children whose parents are handling legal matters or appearing in court. Two staff members work there.
The staff is preparing for Intimate Partner Violence Month in October and launching a public awareness campaign. Staff are also sending out youth posters and putting out 45-page handbooks educating service providers about intimate-partner and dating violence.
The consortium just started paying the bulk of the costs of a treatment program for poor people facing felony charges for domestic violence. The group is also hunting for money to help pay for poor county residents facing misdemeanor charges.