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Domestic violence treatment and prevention groups rally for increased funding

SALT LAKE CITY — Court Einfeldt was 9 years old when he lost his older sister as a result of domestic violence.

Einfeldt, now 17, stifled tears Monday as he read a poem he wrote about his sister, Megan Einfeldt, at a rally to support funding for Utah’s nonprofit domestic violence victim services.

A line in Court Einfeldt’s poem read, "I know that he pushed you too far for so long."

Another line read, “He took everything from you, even your life.”

Megan Einfeldt was 26 when she committed suicide in 2006. She was a mother to three children, two boys and one girl, Court Einfeldt said.

Now, Cedar City resident Court Einfeldt stands as an advocate for domestic violence victim services organizations. He said if his sister had received more support from domestic violence services, her death might have been prevented.

“It’s not a guarantee, but I feel like she could still be here,” he said after the rally.

Representatives from Utah’s domestic violence organizations gathered Monday to ask lawmakers to support new and ongoing funding for domestic violence victim programs.

The coalition’s first priority is to convert the state’s one-time appropriation of $393,500 in 2014 to ongoing funding for Utah’s 13 private domestic violence nonprofit organizations, said Liz Watson, interim executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

Without the funding, Utah's victim services will be reduced by 3 percent next year, which would be the equivalent to losing more than 9,000 service hours and more than 3,000 shelter nights, according to the coalition.

“We need your help to ensure this funding does not go away this year,” Watson said at the rally. “If it does, it will impact victims.”

The coalition’s second priority is to establish $728,624 in ongoing funding to implement a statewide lethality assessment protocol, which is an evidence-based program that would identify Utahns most at risk for domestic violence and help prevent violence before it’s too late.

Woods Cross police detective Adam Osoro spoke about the effectiveness of the lethality assessment protocol, saying he’s seen its “dramatic results” in his community.

Osoro shared a story of how the Woods Cross Police Department used the protocol to identify a family as high-risk for domestic violence. Following the protocol, Woods Cross officers relocated the family and likely saved their lives when the offender came looking for them.

“(With this program), we don’t leave it up to the victim to find help,” Osoro said. “We as law enforcement take the opportunity with the victim on the scene to provide them with services while we are there. So basically we take that difficult step away from the victim and do it for them.”

Funding a statewide lethality assessment protocol for Utah could save up to 20 lives a year, as 42 percent of the state’s homicides are domestic violence related, he said.

“That’s a big deal,” Osoro said.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, co-chairman of the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee, said members of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition have “proven themselves” as a serious organization with a legitimate need for funds.

Christensen said “it’s a shame” that domestic violence victim services even have to exist, but he’s “grateful for the good people who are willing to deal with it.”

Cindy Baldwin, executive director of the Canyon Creek Crisis Center, said unity among domestic violence organizations will strengthen the coalition’s funding requests.

“If you support us in this, we will make a difference in lives,” Baldwin said. “We will create increased safety and stability in homes. We will … make our state and our communities a safer place to be.”

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com