HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that the city is investing $6.2 million, provided by the CARES Act funding, in an effort to fight domestic violence, which he said has increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
Turner launched the Domestic Violence and Crisis Intervention Response Initiative with officials from both the Houston police and fire departments and Houston Public Health on Monday during a press conference. He said the initiative will help the city intensify its efforts to address the increase in domestic violence calls.
Turner said the initiative is needed now more than ever as domestic violence offenses have increased by 9.39% in March, 3.79% in April and 15.51% in May as compared to the same months in 2019. The mayor also said domestic service calls, such as family violence involving aggravated assault, have increased by 48%.
The city’s goal is to focus on emotional and mental stress caused by COVID-19 and how local officials can de-escalate a domestic violence situation.
“This public health and law enforcement initiative is intended to better address the emotional and mental stress that is at an all-time high level in our community," Turner said. "People have lost their jobs. They are at home more. People are facing substance abuse or homelessness. The domestic violence response initiative is needed.”
Officials with the Houston Health Department said its mental health division, crisis intervention response team and community partners will expand their reach to serve more domestic abuse victims.
“With the goal of providing crisis intervention for domestic violence victims within minutes of a 911 call by reducing response time to domestic violence victims, HPD will be able to more quickly connect abuse victims with community partners who will provide resources such as emergency housing short- and long-term, counseling, legal advocacy, access to free health care, including forensic medical exams or case management,” Turner said.
The Houston Health Department also launched Phase 2 of its public health campaign called, "Don’t stop. Don’t forget.” The campaign includes multi-lingual advertising across radio, TV print social media websites and billboards.
The Health Department reported 367 new COVID cases and one new COVID-19-related death as of Monday. Turner said the positivity rate is currently at 6.9% in the city of Houston and needs to get back to 5% or below.
“COVID-19 has changed our reality, and we must continue to change our behavior to meet this new reality we know what’s happening all around us throughout the country, even in places like West Texas, El Paso, and so we need to do our part to make it make sure that this virus remains in a manageable state to remind us all of the importance of doing these things every single day,” Turner said.