High Point often complains about getting the short end of the stick when it comes to county services, but starting on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 4 p.m., the city will have one less thing to complain about: At that time, Guilford County will officially open the Guilford County Family Justice Center in High Point.
The facility will be a “one-stop” service for victims of domestic abuse, elder abuse and other family-based crimes and some sexual-oriented crimes.
Guilford County opened a Family Justice Center in downtown Greensboro in mid-June 2015 and that service has been considered a big success by the Guilford County commissioners, Guilford County staff and the clients who have benefited from it.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and, at the board’s Thursday, Oct. 4 meeting, the commissioners honored the service of those who work in this field in the county.
Before Guilford County created a Family Justice Center Department and began offering unified services in Greensboro, victims of domestic abuse and related crimes spent hours going from the courthouse to the police department to the hospital to private support agencies to do things like file a report, get a restraining order and have a medical exam. Now all the needed services are available in one place in Greensboro.
The new facility in High Point, which is in Guilford County’s courthouse in that city, will be staffed by three county employees and with others from law enforcement as well as from community-based agencies that deal with domestic violence.
This week, Guilford County Family Justice Center Director Catherine Johnson said she’s very excited about the opening of the new facility and added that things are just about ready.
“We’re in the final stages,” Johnson said.
She said the technology workers had recently been checking all the systems for the facility.
The High Point Justice Center has its own entrance into the courthouse in downtown High Point as well as a small parking lot that was included in the project. There is a secure entrance from the Justice Center for those coming inside the courthouse, though those entering that way will need special access.
The City of High Point is contributing $500,000 to get the center up and running.
Johnson said that the construction and renovation process has been very smooth.
“Things have gone great and we have been working well with our partners,” she said.
She added that this will be a big asset for those who live in the southwestern part of the county. Johnson said that right now over 80 percent of the clients seen at the downtown Greensboro center are from the Greensboro area.
“We feel like a second site in High Point will let us help a larger segment of the population,” said Johnson, who added that she lives near Jamestown.
Johnson said currently she and others are getting the word out about the new location. She said the partnering agencies are doing a good job spreading the news.
“Everybody has updated their brochures and other communications to let people know there are two places,” she said.
Guilford County Commissioner Hank Henning said he’s been very pleased the new center is opening later this month.
“It has been nothing but positive in Greensboro; 20,000 people have utilized the service,” Henning said. “It’s great that, at a time of need, someone can get everything from a restraining order to medical treatment at one stop.”
Henning also said that, previously, victims would spend hours and hours at various agencies and some people would get so frustrated with the process that justice was never served.
“People would get tired and drop out of the system,” he said. “This to me is exactly what a public/private partnership should be doing.”
The centers partners with over a dozen agencies and organizations including Cone Health and Legal Aid of Greensboro.
Henning added that statistics have shown a dramatic drop in domestic murder in Guilford County and he said the center in no doubt playing a role in that.
The new service does come at added expense to taxpayers. The Board of Commissioners put an additional $214,000 in the county budget “to accommodate increased personnel, supplies and materials and professional services expenses related to the High Point Expansion.”
Over the next few months, Johnson will be spending a lot of her time at the High Point facility as things get up to speed.
According to a resolution read by Commissioner Kay Cashion at the Thursday, Oct. 4 commissioners meeting, in America, an average of more than three people are murdered every day by an intimate partner.
Also, in 2017, the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that 79 women, men and children were murdered in domestic violence-related homicides in North Carolina – with Guilford County reporting five domestic violence related deaths.
Family Service of the Piedmont responded to nearly 3,100 crisis line calls during the last fiscal year, and, collectively, the Greensboro Police Department, High Point Police Department and Guilford County Sheriff’s Department reported over 19,000 calls for service involving domestic or sexual violence during that time period.
According to statistics kept by the county, the Guilford County Department Health and Human Services Division of Social Services, in 2017 that department received almost 6,000 reports to Child Protective Services and 765 reports of elder abuse and neglect to the Aging and Adult Services Division.
Cashion led the county’s effort to open the first Guilford County Family Justice Center in Greensboro, and she has also been a major force behind the one in High Point.
Guilford County, which has received numerous awards and recognition for the Family Justice Center in Greensboro and the county, is becoming something of a model city for other areas in this regard. Guilford County was selected as the site of the first statewide family justice center conference that was held last December.