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YOUNGSTOWN Program aims to combat effect of violence on kids



Published: Thu, January 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The brochure provides a 24-hour telephone number for assistance.

YOUNGSTOWN -- City police who patrol certain South Side streets now carry brochures to hand out when responding to domestic violence situations.

The Children Who Witness Violence pilot program is an attempt to reduce the damaging effects family violence has on children. Forum Health Tod Children's Hospital received a $30,000 state grant to establish the program in Youngstown and Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

"I'm proud that our city's police officers will be part of this innovative program," said Police Chief Richard Lewis. "I'm very optimistic that we can help break the cycle of domestic violence that plagues too many families."

Target area: Youngstown's target area lies between Market Street and South Avenue, with Midlothian Boulevard to the south and Woodland Avenue to the north. Program planners hope to secure additional funding and expand the program.

Officers who respond to a domestic violence situation will hand the brochure to the nonoffending parent.

The brochure informs the parent of the emotional harm that children experience when they witness domestic violence -- even if the child is not physically hurt during the incident.

The brochure provides a phone number to a local 24-hour crisis hot line that will assist in setting an appointment with the child and mental health counselor. There's also a phone number for a domestic violence shelter.

Effects on children: Children who are exposed to chronic violence are particularly vulnerable to long-term psychological effects, such as post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anger, anxiety and dissociation, experts say. As a result, these children later in life can themselves become the victim or the offender.

"When children of any age witness incidents of domestic violence, they can be emotionally scarred for life," said Dr. Robert Felter, medical director at Tod. "This damage can be reduced through counseling and other remedies. The goal [of the program] is to help children recover from what they've seen and heard and I urge parents to seek help for their children and participate in this important program."

These mental health agencies are participating in the program: Catholic Charities Regional Agency; D & amp;E Counseling Center; Family Service Agency; Mahoning County Mental Health Board; and Comprehensive Psychiatry Specialists.

If the custodial parent has no health insurance to pay for mental health services, the Ohio Victims of Crime Compensation program, through the state attorney general's office, can pay up to $1,500 in services for the child. For more information or a copy of the brochure, call Andrea Mistovich, director at the Tri-County Child Advocacy Center, at (330) 743-2539.




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