[UF LAW eNews - a publication of the Levin College of Law @ the University of Florida]

Home | Print article | Contact eNews

UF law school first to open all-inclusive domestic violence clinic

by Scott Emerson

Clinic A $449,785 U.S. Department of Justice grant to the University of Florida Levin College of Law will fund a unique collaborative effort to assist low-income domestic-violence victims with comprehensive legal, medical, mental and social services in one location.

The new Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic is a partnership between the UF College of Law Center on Children and Families and Virgil D. Hawkins Civil Legal Clinics, UF’s College of Medicine, Shands HealthCare, and Gainesville’s nonprofit Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network. The innovative clinic will be staffed by UF law and medical students who have been trained and certified to work with survivors of domestic-violence and by social and mental health workers from Shands at the University of Florida and Peaceful Paths. The clinic, set to open in May, will be located in the obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics clinic at Shands at UF in Gainesville. The location was chosen due to the number of abuse victims treated in the clinics.

“Currently, those experiencing domestic violence may have to set up several appointments to seek help through numerous providers, which can be very difficult for these victims,” said Teresa Drake, director of the clinic, a nationally recognized educator on domestic violence and a former assistant state attorney with the Eighth Judicial Circuit in Florida, where she served as division chief for the domestic violence unit. “The staff at the clinic will conduct comprehensive needs assessments to determine what services are required and guide them through each process. The services provided by the clinic will include medical treatment, mental health and housing counseling, and legal consultations regarding protective injunctions, child support and court proceedings.”

According to a 2007 Uniform Crime Report, more than 2,300 incidents of domestic violence occurred in the clinic’s service area, which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties. Existing legal service providers were able to respond to only 951 requests for legal assistance in 2007, leaving as many as 1,349 documented domestic violence victims with unmet legal needs.

“These problems are not unique to the Eighth Circuit, or to Florida,” said Theresa Harrison, executive director of Peaceful Paths. “All around the country, domestic violence survivors fail to receive the needed services, often because the process of contacting the separate providers, attending appointments and following up is just too overwhelming. We hope the clinic will serve as a model for service delivery in other jurisdictions where survivors’ needs are unmet.”

To meet the objectives of the grant, the clinical collaboration will develop protocols and cross-training procedures for clinic staff, develop and implement domestic violence curriculum and training throughout courses within the law and medical schools, and conduct community outreach by providing information about the clinic in targeted locations throughout the service area.

Those impacted by domestic violence in the six-county service area should call 1-800-393-SAFE (7233).