'Boots on the ground': New Milford considers new position to help those affected by domestic violence

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
New Milford Mayor Pete Bass

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

NEW MILFORD — Residents affected by domestic violence soon may have quicker access to the needed resources.

Mayor Pete Bass is proposing adding a domestic violence family advocate, a new position that would serve as a direct link between the social services and police departments.

“Domestic violence is not only a problem here in New Milford, but in the entire country,” Bass said at Monday’s Town Council meeting.

He said often an abuser is allowed to return home because the person being abused doesn’t have the economic resources to be independent.

Additionally, Bass said in cases when an abuser is ordered by the court to have no contact with the one being abused, no one returns to check on the person being abused.

“No one knocks on the door, and says, ‘Hey, what’s going on? Can I help you? What resources do you need?’” Bass said.

He is asking the town to approve the position for a two-year test period. The job would be based within the town’s social services department but tethered to its police department.

Bass compared the position to the town’s program to combat substance abuse and homelessness, with the hiring of Justin Cullmer as New Milford’s community care coordinator. Cullmer’s position was created in September 2019 to connect residents at risk from substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness or domestic violence with the proper treatment, housing, or family support resources.

“We need to do whatever we can to help those individuals that have been affected by domestic violence, and we’re going to have a no-tolerance policy for that here in New Milford,” Bass said.

The new position would be “the boots on the ground,” in a domestic violence case, Bass said.

“They will be the person that will go and knock on that door and make sure that that person that’s been abused has the resources they need to be independent and to be able to be self-sufficient,” he said.

Today, these tasks are divided among different areas. The police department follows its stages of the complaint, which then goes to the legal system. Once the legal system gets into it, he said, then it becomes an area where there’s a “separation.”

The Town Council will consider the position as part of its appropriations for some of the American Relief funds. If approved, it will move on to the Board of Finance and then a town meeting. A cost has not been proposed yet.

If the new position is approved, “we could get the ball rolling on it,” with hopes to have the person start in January, Bass said.

Other Town Council members supported the idea and pointed to other resources.

Town Council member Mary Jane Lundgren said those who experience domestic violence frequently are in need of affordable housing.

Town Council member Walter Bayer said the Woman’s Center of Greater Danbury is a “valuable resource” for those affected by domestic violence. The women’s center provides domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor services in northern Fairfield and southern Litchfield counties.

According to its website, the center serves more than 30,000 individuals with free and confidential services that are available every day.

sfox@milfordmirror.com