Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lethality Assessment Program

I am excited to tell you about a program that Hope House is doing in conjunction with the Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Grandview Police Departments called the Lethality Assessment Program.

The program represents the work of Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell of The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. In her 25 years of research Dr. Campbell learned:
  • Only 4% of domestic violence murder victims ever availed themselves of services.
  • In 50% of domestic violence related homicides, officers had previously responded to a call to that home.
  • The re-assault of domestic violence victims in high danger was reduced by 60% if the victim went into shelter. 
With this research data, the Maryland Coalition Against Domestic Violence (MCADV) began the Lethality Assessment Program for First Responders. The MCADV chose five pilot sites to take their project nation wide and the Kansas City area was chosen as one of those pilot sites through a collaborative effort called the Safe Family Coalition.


The LAP project is a two pronged intervention program that consists of a research-based lethality screening tool and an accompanying protocol referral that provides direction for the officer based on the results of the screening process. The project consists of a police department and a domestic violence agency working together.

When police are called to the scene of domestic violence situation they utilize the screening tool. This screening is a series of questions that determines if that victim is at high risk for lethality or being killed based on how the victim answers. This screening gives the officers another tool to use to talk with the victim. They can say to the victim, “I am very concerned for your safety. Research shows that based on the way you answered these questions, there is a high likelihood that you will be killed by your abuser.”


Once the screening is complete, the officer lets the victim know that he/she will be calling Hope House and talking to the hotline operator; the goal being that the victim will talk to the hotline operator as well. The officer will talk with the hotline operator to assist with safety planning and referrals, even if the victim chooses not to get on the phone.

Many of the victims do talk to the hotline operator; 43% have come into services once they have made contact with the shelter. For some of these victims, this conversation is the first time they have ever had contact with us and had the opportunity to learn about the services that are available.


The participating police departments agreed to take part in this five month pilot project (June to October 2009) with no additional funding. All participating police departments chose to continue the program due to the success experienced during the pilot phase.

Of 202 screenings, 146 screened high for lethality (72%). We were told to expect about two calls per week but just in our participating communities we were experiencing approximately one call per day. Kansas City is also participating and they were experiencing approximately two calls per day.

What this says to me is that we are reaching a group of people we were not reaching before. We are offering services to those people who are most at risk of being of killed and are least likely to access services. This program is truly saving lives.

We are so proud of the police departments that continue to participate even with no funding or extra resources. They are committed to ending domestic violence and most importantly, committed to helping the victims find safety, support and hope. To the police departments I say thank you; we could not do this work without you and your efforts.

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