News stories have announced that the Hillsborough County Family Justice Center will close unless they obtain $170,000 necessary to keep the doors open. This is a life-and-death issue. More women will die in Hillsborough County if the center closes.
Beyond the morality of this truth is the economic fact that taxpayers will spend millions to address the handling of more murder cases than they would spend on the lifesaving work of the Family Justice Center. In multiple studies, one domestic violence murder costs taxpayers more than $2 million in a local community. This is far more than the entire annual budget of the nationally recognized Hillsborough County Family Justice Center.
As the founder of the first Family Justice Center in America in San Diego in 2002 and now the president of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, I worked closely with the Tampa Police Department, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Children's Board of Hillsborough County and other allies to help open the Hillsborough County Family Justice Center as part of the 2004 president's Family Justice Center Initiative.
Nikki Daniels, the director, and her allied partners have done stunning work to serve more than 11,000 clients since opening. The center can serve the broadest possible client base and bring together partners that far exceed the service scope of a single agency such as The Spring. We just completed an independent statewide study in California of eight Family Justice Centers, and the results are overwhelming in establishing the effectiveness of the Family Justice Center multi-agency model.
We urge the Hillsborough County Commission and Commission Chairman Ken Hagan to step forward and support the immediate financial needs of the center. Inter-agency politics and turf issues should not be allowed to destroy one of the most powerful approaches to serving victims and their children ever in place in Hillsborough County.
Please provide the immediate funding needed. The Alliance will then donate our time to assist with a long-term funding and sustainability plan for the Hillsborough County Family Justice Center over the next six to 12 months. The future of our movement is clearly headed toward a multi-agency, public/private partnership approach.
Casey Gwinn, Esq.
San Diego, Calif.
The writer is president of the National Family Justice Center Alliance.