Baldwin County law enforcement agencies seek $1.77 million domestic violence grant

by Connie Baggett

March 15, 2011

BAY MINETTE, Alabama — County law enforcement agencies are seeking a $1.77 million grant to help address a dramatic increase in domestic violence reported in Baldwin in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to county records. Officials called the phenomenon “the invisible disaster.” …

…The money would fund a new program called “Home BASE,” which stands for Baldwin Acts, Serves and Educates. Documents from Dixon’s office outline the program that would focus more resources on responding to incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual assault and related crimes. Statistics on those crimes indicate many more cases were reported in the months since the spill when compared to the previous year, according to the documents.

The program would be a cooperative project between the Baldwin County Commission, District Attorney’s Office, Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, Lighthouse Family Violence Shelter and Foley Police Department, according to the grant application.

The program would be “a comprehensive, coordinated, collaborative program designed to improve enforcement, prosecution, victim service and prevention,” according to the document. The education component would provide specialized training for officers, investigators, judges and prosecutors with an “aggressive prevention-education program” for public schools.

The program specifically names the growing Hispanic population in the county as one focal point for the proposed initiative that would “create a unified system of response and service” for Baldwin.

According to statistics in the application, Project Rebound counselors interviewed some 500 residents in October, offering mental health treatment for about half “for depression, anxiety and marital strife experienced in the face of financial ruin.”

Even before the interviews, 174 county residents had already sought mental health treatment. Experts say residents could experience a mental health impact of the spill for two to five years, the application states.

A February study by the National Institutes of Health cited in the application indicated that income losses from the spill could be part of the cause of “recent spikes in domestic violence now overwhelming law enforcement agencies.”